Some reporters on the ground noted long lines, precincts without chairs, flaring tempers and alleged violations of caucus rules:
Report from Wooster HS: "It's about to get ugly here." How so? "Yelling, swearing, disorganized. People are pissed."— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) February 24, 2016
Man here says "it's a disaster." No one is checking in or checking IDs. They're handing out ballots willy nilly. Some guy voted trump twice— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) February 24, 2016
Text from Cruz source: "Our state party, under this leadership, is legendary."— Elaina Plott (@elainaplott) February 24, 2016
Things got so bad, the state party felt it necessary to tweet out a defense:
It's not against the rules for volunteers to wear candidate gear. Volunteers went through extensive training & are doing a great job— Nevada GOP (@NVGOP) February 24, 2016
That the caucus devolved into chaos in some spots wasn't a surprise to many politicos. The truth is, the Nevada Republican Party has been in disarray for more than a decade. The state's top elected Republican officials -- including its governor -- often have to maneuver around their own party to win elections, not work within it.
But Nevada's Republican leaders can't get around the fact that the state Republican Party is in charge of holding the state's first-in-the-West caucus. And that's a big problem for the state's reputation on the national stage. Since switching from a primary to a caucus in 2008, Nevada's Republican Party has struggled to hold a presidential nominating contest without incident.
"We were the laughingstock of the nation," GOP Chair Michael O'Donnell told me last year of 2012's caucus. (We'll get into what went wrong a little later.)
So, what's up with that? What happened to the Nevada Republican Party that the presidential caucus it holds every four years is almost guaranteed to go wrong?
To answer that, we have to go back to 2004, when conservatives in Nevada's largest county, Clark County, basically hijacked the party. Around the time, Nevada was in the process of moving from red to a purple state, thanks in part to demographic changes.
Upset with the Republican Party's apparent capitulation to moderates, libertarian-leaning conservatives voted out top GOP officials. Republicans in the state distanced themselves from the party rather than associate with its new, more aggressive reputation. The party had trouble recruiting and fundraising except within its own, relatively small circle of hardcore supporters.
Nevada wasn't a major player in the primary process back then, so the state's Republican Party drama went unnoticed nationally.
But in 2008, Nevada jumped on to the national presidential primary stage. The all-powerful then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) maneuvered to make Nevada one of the early nominating states for Democrats. Reid successfully argued to the national Democratic Party that Nevada's growing Hispanic and Asian American population was a microcosm of the nation's demographic future.
Democrats decided that Nevada could be in the top four nominating states if it held a caucus, so as not to upset the primary-caucus balance in the first two nominating states, Iowa and New Hampshire.
The well-organized state Democratic Party jumped into action to fund and organize such a logistically challenging event. They paid for educational materials on how a caucus works and held practice caucuses throughout the state. Compared to the mess that is the Republican Party, Nevada Democrats have held three caucuses now relatively unscathed.
Republicans watched all this happen and a little belatedly decided that they wanted to get in on the action too. They successfully convinced their own national party that they should match Democrats and also be one of the first four nominating states. The national party somewhat reluctantly agreed.
Now, it seems, Republicans' fears about their Nevada adherents' ability to hold such a high-profile caucus were well-placed. Nevada's Republican Party has held three caucuses now, and all three have had some moments of total disaster.
In 2008, grass-roots supporters loyal to then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), who placed second in the state's caucus to Mitt Romney, embarrassed party officials at the national Republican convention when they caused a stir by shouting at officials and delaying the process.
That was the first go-around, so Nevada Republicans got a pass by some. But the 2012 GOP caucus went arguably worse: Turnout was dismal, and several times leading up to the caucus, party officials had to downgrade their expectations, from 100,000 to some 40,000. (The actual turnout was 32,894.)
On caucus day, a county chairman in Northern Nevada said a data error sent people to the wrong caucus location and people were banging on the doors to get in. It took three days for final results to be released. A top party official was nowhere to be found. At the state convention, Paul's supporters orchestrated a coup by getting 22 of the 28 state delegates to pledge support to Paul -- even though Romney won the caucus vote. The Nevada delegation got nosebleed seats at the national convention.
Things went so poorly that in March of last year, the party seriously considered switching from the logistically difficult caucus to a primary. The idea split state Republicans down the middle. Would a primary increase turnout? Would it cost taxpayers money? Would it cost us our early position on the calendar? National Republicans were aghast that the original proposal would move Nevada's primary up to January, ahead of even Iowa.
Eventually, Nevada Republicans stuck with the idea of a caucus, albeit one that resembles a primary in some aspects: After hearing pitches for different candidates, Republicans write down their choice on a piece of paper. But some caucus-goers complained Tuesday that there wasn't even a chance to caucus with your preferred candidate. It's "a primary with bad technology and long lines," one Las Vegas-area caucus-goer told The Fix.
Overall, Nevada's 2016 GOP caucus was run much more smoothly than past caucuses. Turnout was 75,000, a new record for the state party. And somewhat luckily for Nevada Republicans, things haven't been close enough for any of the controversies to actually throw the result into doubt; Romney won by 37 points in 2008 and 29 points in 2012, and Donald Trump won by 22 points Tuesday.
But even if the caucus process gets better, trying to do well in Nevada is a headache for most Republican presidential candidates. Politico reported that the state party didn't even keep a list of who caucused in 2012, forcing the campaigns to start from scratch.
Some optimistic Nevada Republicans say all is not totally lost. Today, there are some more moderate Nevada GOP officials climbing the ranks in the state party, trying to wrest control of it back.
They say it's a long, slow road back to a more organized, well-funded party. Every cycle, they get a little bit better, they say.
But for national Republicans who white-knuckle Nevada's GOP caucuses every four years, the realignment and potential redemption of Nevada's discredited Republican Party likely can't come fast enough.