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For Santorum campaign and Nevada caucus-goers, apathy is mutual

February 04, 2012|By Maria L. LaGanga
(STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images )

Reporting from Pahrump, Nev. — Pity poor Rick Santorum.

The patriotic Pahrumpers from Precinct 31 had crowded into Mrs. Odegard’s sixth-grade classroom at Rosemary Clark Middle School this morning to talk politics.

First they were scheduled to hear a short speech on behalf of each of the would-be Republican presidential nominees. Then they would fill out blue paper ballots and tuck them into the cardboard ballot box to pick the man they want to see post up against President Obama come November.

The way the Nevada caucuses work, candidate speeches are given by loyal local supporters out to persuade their neighbors one last time before the vote begins. Sometimes the campaigns write up scripts to make sure the speakers hit the high points of their candidates' records.

As one dubious member of Precinct 31 asked at the beginning of the Pahrump caucus, “How do we know the people making the speeches are truly informed on the candidate?”

Replied precinct captain Kristian Bentzen, “You don’t. This is us. It’s our neighborhood.”

Newt Gingrich’s campaign had prepared remarks, and supporter Andra Braden offered to read them. Resplendent in a bright blue Mitt Romney T-shirt, Lanny Shea was ready to speak on behalf of her favorite Republican.

And here in Nye County, the only place in Nevada where Ron Paul actually won in 2008, it’s never hard to find someone willing to bend your ear for the Texas congressman who wants to abolish the Federal Reserve, bring back the gold standard and get American troops home.  Paul was the only candidate with banners posted across the street from the caucus site.

What Bruce Calley lacked in diplomacy, he made up for in enthusiasm, when he told his neighbors that ”anyone that doesn’t support Ron Paul, they don’t have a grasp of the whole situation that’s going on in the whole country, nation and world…. You’re getting your information from the 5 o’clock liars.”

And Santorum? The former senator from Pennsylvania campaigned only briefly in the Silver State and was long gone before the caucuses began. His operation didn’t distribute any information to be read to caucus participants, at least not in Nye County.

“If we don’t have a prepared speech for Santorum and nothing was dropped off, there’s nothing I can do,” Bentzen told his neighbors. “If they had dropped me off a speech, I would read it to you.… Anyone here want to speak on behalf of candidate Santorum?”

The room went silent.

“Going once,” Bentzen said. “Going twice.”

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