With the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary behind us, Nevada is working to make sure its caucus for the 2020 presidential election runs as smoothly as possible. WGBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with political journalist and editor of The Nevada Independent Jon Ralston about the state of politics in Nevada. The transcript has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: Much has been said about the problems in Iowa, and you know all about them. Will things run differently in Nevada next week?

Jon Ralston: Well, I can tell you that there's a lot of prayers being said at the state Democratic Party headquarters because they feel a lot of pressure after what happened in Iowa. Listen, they have totally changed their process since May, which wasn't that long ago. They've tried to pair the technology that they're using [and] tried to make it simple using paper ballots and Google forms instead of the same app that Iowa was going to use.

But let's face it, Joe, it's a caucus. Things are going to go wrong; it's not just the same. And they're doing it differently this year. They're having early voting, which starts tomorrow, and you have to transfer all of those votes not just into a caucus state, but into the exact precincts. Because the way caucuses work, you have to have 15 percent viability to go forward. And if you don't have all the votes lined up, people are going to complain [and] there are going to be glitches. The question is just how major they'll be. So as I said, there's a lot of praying going on down at state Democratic Party headquarters.

Mathieu: You've made the point, though, even as we're keeping our fingers crossed here and saying prayers, the Nevada Democratic Party is one of the best organized in the country. Is that fair?

Ralston: They are. These are team of pros unlike any other I've covered in 30-plus years of covering politics. They are so good. They have swept the state the last two cycles and essentially erased Republicans from any major offices. We have two U.S. senators now, all but one of the six statewide constitutional officers are Democrats. They dominate the legislature. They know what they're doing, they know how to organize, [and] they know how to register and get people out to vote. But there's just so many things that can go wrong in a caucus that they're just hoping that it's just the usual minor stuff about people complaining because people like to complain. So if anyone can pull this off, they can. But I assure you, they are quite worried.

Mathieu: Boy, you're being cautious here, Jon. I want to ask you about the Culinary Workers Union, which we've been hearing a lot about. There's been kind of an ugly back and forth with the Sanders campaign after the union told members that Sanders' health care plan might be bad for union health care plans. That's prompted online attacks from Sanders supporters and now the candidate himself is telling everybody to calm down. What's up with that?

Ralston: Yeah, the the Culinary Union is the most powerful force in Democratic politics here. They have 50,000 to 60,000 members. They represent people who work in the casino industry. When they get involved in something, they can swing a race or a caucus. They have remained neutral, but they have been putting out flyers that essentially tell their members don't vote for Bernie Sanders or, to a lesser extent, Elizabeth Warren because they support Medicare For All.

The last one they put out really set off some of the Bernie Sanders supporters because it explicitly said Bernie Sanders is going to take away your health care. And so anybody who's followed Bernie Sanders' career knows that there are a lot of people fervently committed to him and in good ways — they believe in what he stands for. But there is a dark corner of his supporters, a subset that just go on social media and are vicious and nasty. And after the Culinary did that, that is what occurred. In fact, we got an exclusive interview with the head of the Culinary who was a woman who came here from Nicaragua and what she said they have done and showed my reporter they have done is just so ugly. It's the underbelly of politics. And unfortunately for Bernie Sanders, it now may have activated the Culinary to go out and send their people to vote against him in the caucus. And right now, by the way, I think he's the favorite.

Mathieu: That's interesting. I wonder then if the Culinary Union would, in fact, make an endorsement because of all of this, or will they stay technically, officially out of it?

Ralston: Yeah, you use the right word there, Joe: "technically [and] officially" out of it. They announced that they're not going to make an endorsement. But I know the leadership of the union, and going as far as Washington, D.C., the parent union's very, very upset about these attacks. And so what they're going to do — whether they're going to be technically neutral but essentially vociferously anti-Bernie — during early voting, which starts tomorrow, if they get their people out, the early vote that could really, really sway the race. The question is, though, who are those people going to vote for? Without guidance from the leadership, I'm not sure what the answer to that is.

Mathieu: Jon, Real Clear's average of polls has Joe Biden on top in Nevada. Does that reflect reality?

Ralston: I don't think so. And as you can tell from the Real Clear Politics average, if you look at the last poll that was done, it's quite some time ago now. There's been no recent polling, and what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire always has an effect on what happens in Nevada.

And I think this is Joe Biden's last stand. He has been ahead in the polls, but he doesn't have the kind of organization that either Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or Mayor Pete have here. So I do not think that is reflecting reality on the ground. Although, again, the old saying eight days is an eternity in politics, so a lot can happen between now and Feb. 22.

Mathieu: Well, that's for sure. And despite what's happening with the Culinary Workers Union, if you're telling me that Bernie Sanders might win this caucus, that says a lot about his campaign right now.

Ralston: He had a very good showing here in 2016. You may remember he almost beat Hillary Clinton here after winning by a landslide in New Hampshire. And so this time, he's not only has the same fervent acolytes, but he's got some real political pros hoping to organize them. So I don't think he's to be underestimated here.