Here's What You Need To Know Ahead Of Tuesday's Nevada Caucus

Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP Photo.
Donald Trump won the South Carolina Republican primary this weekend, and he and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are preparing to face off in the Nevada Republican caucus on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton won the Nevada Democratic caucus.

So what's the difference between a caucus and a primary, and what do you need to know about Tuesday's events? We've broken it all down below — as well as what's at stake for the GOP presidential candidates this week.

How Many States Have Caucuses?

The Iowa caucuses — which Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton won earlier this month — get most of the attention, but other states' caucuses are also important in the primary races. Much like primaries, caucuses decide how many delegates candidates get in future conventions, based on how many votes they get at the caucuses.

All in all, 15 states and four territories including Iowa hold caucuses rather than primaries (although in some of these states, the party chooses whether to hold a caucus or a primary, so a state like Kentucky will have a Republican caucus and a Democratic primary). States holding a caucus include: Alaska, American Samoa, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho (Democrats only), Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky (Republicans only), Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska (Democrats only), Nevada, North Dakota, North Mariana Islands, Utah, Virgin Islands, Washington, and Wyoming.

What's The Difference, Exactly?

Caucuses are much more involved than primaries, as CNN explains. While primaries include voters simply showing up and casting secret ballots for the candidates of their choice, caucuses are drawn-out public events, often held in gathering places like gyms, libraries, and churches.
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Are Caucuses Different For Both Parties?

Yes. During GOP caucuses, representatives from each campaign argue why their candidate is best for the party, and voters cast secret ballots, which are then sent to state GOP headquarters, CNN notes. In Democratic caucuses, meanwhile, there aren't secret ballots — when the caucuses begin, attendees show which candidate they're supporting by moving to different parts of the room.

Candidates must garner around 15% of Democratic caucus voters' support to be considered "viable." If candidates aren't viable, their supporting caucus-goers must move to support other viable candidates, Fox News explains, and then the votes for the viable candidates are counted. The final number of votes for the viable candidates helps determine how many delegates from each precinct are sent to county conventions, which serve as stepping stones to the Democratic National Convention.

Another difference between caucuses and primaries, CNN notes, is that in some primaries, independent voters can cast ballots for the parties of their choice, while only registered Republicans and Democrats can participate in caucus votes.

What Does This Mean For Trump?

Donald Trump and Marco Rubio are preparing to face off on Tuesday, as both of them — along with other GOP candidates Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and John Kasich — are still gunning for the Republican primary nomination. After Trump won the South Carolina primary, The Atlantic posited, "Is Trump unstoppable?" If the businessman wins in Nevada on Tuesday, many people believe that might just be the case (although Rubio and Cruz won't go down without a fight). Trump's campaign has gone from having many people consider it a joke to having many people consider him the inevitable Republican candidate, and a Nevada win could further solidify him as the GOP frontrunner.

But What About Cruz?

Yes, Cruz won the Iowa Republican caucus, but Rubio, not Cruz, placed second to Trump in the South Carolina primary. And as The Atlantic notes, Jeb Bush's exit from the 2016 race could be a boon for Rubio, who could benefit from the donations of Republican supporters who previously backed Bush's campaign. Vanity Fair reports that Cruz's campaign has $13.6 million on hand, while Rubio's reportedly had just $5.1 million as of last month. A victory in the Nevada caucus could help Rubio secure more campaign funding, and as Suzi Parker at The Daily Beast argues, Rubio could be "the Deep South's last hope against Donald Trump."

How Representative Is This Thing?

Unlike the Nevada Democratic caucus, the Nevada Republican caucus doesn't allow same-day voter registration, The Wall Street Journal explains, and according to the Journal, "turnout is expected to be very small" at Tuesday's events. Experts have predicted that of the roughly 400,000 registered Republicans in Nevada, between 10% and 15% will show up to take part in the Nevada Republican caucus. (For context, somewhere between 50 and 57% of the eligible general population has turned out to vote in the past three presidential elections.) Still, the rest of the nation will be waiting to see Tuesday's results to analyze the implications for the rest of the election season.
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