Nevada will open its caucus doors shortly and open the fifth statewide contest in the Republican presidential nomination sweepstakes. This one looks like more of a no-contest, though, as CBS reports this morning. The short period of time between Florida’s primary and Nevada’s binding caucus didn’t leave much room for significant polling, but what polling did take place shows Mitt Romney in the lead by 20 or more points. The real suspense will be whether Romney can get a majority as he did in 2008, and whether Gingrich can hold on for second place:
In three campaign appearances Friday, Romney did not even mention Newt Gingrich who, according to the latest poll, done by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, trails Romney in Nevada, 45 to 25 percent.
Hoping to make up ground on the last day of campaigning, Gingrich referred to Romney as “Obama-lite,” and once again seized on Romney’s recent gaffe that he is “not concerned about the very poor.”
“My goal,” said Gingrich, “is the exact opposite of Governor Romney — my goal is not to ignore or forget the poor. My goal is to turn the safety net into a trampoline to allow the poor to rise and be like the rest of us and have a job and buy a house,” he said to applause.
Gingrich has brought up Romney’s remark about the very poor at virtually every event, and it just doesn’t seem to have helped him.
CBS has the polling numbers in the video, and they’re daunting for the other candidates in the race. Gingrich hasn’t done the kind of touring in Nevada necessary for caucus success, though, and lacks the organization to make up for it. His team insisted that a second-place finish would be a moral victory — and it would result in garnering a share of the delegates, as Nevada allocates proportionally. However, Ron Paul has a good organization in Nevada, and I think he has been underestimated in these polls. It’s possible that Gingrich can underperform and Paul could surprise Gingrich, although Nevada might be the final state in which that can happen.
I’ll predict that Romney ends up with 52% of the vote, Gingrich 18%, Paul 16%, and Santorum 14%.
Update: National Journal reports that Newt Gingrich will hold a press conference rather than give a post-event speech tonight, raising a few eyebrows:
Instead of the traditional election night party, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will hold a press conference after the Nevada Caucus on Saturday, raising new speculation about his future in the race.
An e-mail sent to reporters on Saturday morning set the Las Vegas press conference for 11 p.m. to midnight Eastern time.
That’s 8-9 pm local time, which would be necessary because the caucuses in Clark County are staying open later than the rest of the state, but why a press conference? That suggests that Gingrich will have some news to announce — and not just an endorsement. Or it could just mean that Gingrich wants to mix it up with the press as a springboard for the Colorado caucus.
Update II: John Ziegler e-mails to suggest that Gingrich may just want to make sure he gets sufficient press coverage — and supporters sticking around — after the caucuses conclude.
Update III, 7 pm ET: They have just started counting the ballots in Nevada, but if CNN’s exit polling is accurate, Romney won a majority. He won 57% of women and 53% of men, which means that Romney will finish above 50%, again assuming the exit poll holds up.
Romney won all of the age demos except 17-29YOs, which he lost by only two points to Ron Paul. He won every education demo, and he won every income demo except under-$30K, which Paul won by just one point. Paul won independents by 17 points, but Romney won Republicans with a 61/20 win over Newt Gingrich. Romney also won all three ideological categories, including “very conservative,” by majorities; Gingrich only got 24% of the very conservative vote. He got 74% of the vote for those whose most important candidate quality was the ability to beat Obama, 55% of those who are looking for the right experience, and 56% of those looking for strong moral character. On that last category, Gingrich got 1%.
This one’s a wipeout, and I’d guess that Gingrich gets no more than 19% when the votes are totaled, again assuming the exit poll is accurate.
Update IV: I changed the headline; this is an entrance poll, not an exit poll. That might make the results a little less reliable, if voters changed their minds in the caucusing.