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Donald Trump won in Nevada’s big cities, small towns and rural counties, taking nearly 46 percent of the vote in the state’s Republican caucuses Tuesday night.
But Trump’s take of the Nevada vote fell off once he left the state’s large urban regions. Trump won 47.5 percent of the vote in Nevada’s metro areas, but in rural counties and small towns, Trump’s take fell to just over 40 percent.
What Trump lost in rural Nevada, Texas Senator Ted Cruz gained. Cruz won 19.6 percent of the vote in metro Nevada, but he took 28 percent of the vote in counties with small towns (between 10,000 and 50,000 people) and 31 percent in rural counties.
Nevada is an overwhelmingly urban state. All but 6 percent of the state’s population lives in metropolitan areas. So Cruz’s rural surge made little difference to the final outcome. Cruz, with 21.4 percent of the total vote, still came in third, behind Trump’s overwhelming 46 percent and Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s 24 percent.
But it does appear that Cruz’s play for rural votes was somewhat successful.
Cruz promised he would give “full control” of federal lands in the state back to Nevada. (The federal government owns 84.9 percent of the total land area of the state.) Trump disagreed, leading Cruz to air a television commercial saying Trump “wants to keep big government in charge.”
Cruz said on his ad that he would return control of the state to its “rightful owners.”
“[Cruz has] targeted, in particular, rural voters because that is also where the most conservative voters live,” Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno told the International Business Times. “This is just a to-die-for issue in the rural areas. If you go out to the rural areas you’ll hear complaints about ‘federal overreach’ — that’s, like, one word” in rural Nevada.
“Cruz has been working the rural counties of the state hard and that is an issue that resonates out there, but the whole public lands issue as it is [is] typically presented by politicians who know little or nothing about Nevada [and it] is inconsistent with the state constitution,” David Damore, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told the IBT. “Also there is no discussion of the cost burden to the state associated with land management and fire protection, which are covered by the feds. It is a good talking point in front of some audiences but has no basis in reality.”
Less discussed in the talk about returning lands to state control is the cost of maintaining that property. The Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper determined that the federal Department of Interior would spend $452 million on federal lands in 49 states. Nevada will receive a good portion of that money for land management and fire protection — costs that would revert to the state if Cruz had his way.
Still, the call for return of federal lands to the states had some pull in rural Nevada, but not enough to bring Cruz a victory over Trump in the counties that are most affected by the issue.