LAS VEGAS, Nevada — The millions of dollars in attack ads that have filled Florida's airwaves over the past 10 days have drained Republican enthusiasm across the country, said Cathie Lynn Profant, president of the Grassroots Tea Party of Nevada.
"I haven't seen a lot of those Tea Party values being expressed by any of the candidates," said Profant. "They're mostly fighting amongst themselves. Everybody is trying to make the other look bad, and in the mean time, no one is telling America what we stand for."
Profant originally backed Rick Perry's campaign, but since the Texas governor dropped out, she's had trouble getting excited about anyone left in the field. With the caucuses just five days away, she said she still hasn't made up her mind--and neither have many of her fellow conservative activists.
While the Tea Party has always been characterized by its anger, conservative populists like to see that anger directed at President Obama. Watching Romney and Gingrich squabble over who has closer ties to Freddie Mac isn't the stuff that revolution is made of. That could explain why there's so much nostalgia among Tea Partiers here for the compulsively congenial Herman Cain.
"I think if one of them just turned around and said, 'This is what we stand for," not pointing out what's wrong with the other guys, he'd really be successful," said Profant.
The negative ads' effect in Nevada illustrates a truism of modern campaigning: when it comes to advertising, all politics is national. A spot that runs in Miami will immediately be uploaded to YouTube (usually by the campaign itself), where voters in Henderson, NV will watch it and form opinions.
"It's been pretty quiet here," said Profant. "But of course we have the internet, Fox News, other national news channels, so we've seen all the attacking."
And with the campaigns swinging toward Nevada next, Profant said local conservatives are bracing themselves for the bloodbath to come to their backyard.
Her one consolation: "They actually won't have too long to attack each other here."
After all, the caucuses are on Saturday.
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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