Is Nevada leaning towards Obama?

Obama won Nevada by 12 and a half percentage points in 2008, a larger margin of victory than in Minnesota, home of Paul Wellstone and Walter Mondale. It was high-water year for Democrats to be sure, but the margin suggested a larger shift. In 1996, Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole with ease, running up 10-point victories in states like Pennsylvania, just as Obama did against John McCain. But Clinton only won Nevada by 1 point. What changed? According to the Census Bureau, Nevada’s population grew 35% between 2000 and 2010; Latinos, who now comprise more than a quarter of the state’s population and break Democratic, accounted for nearly half that growth.

Romney is often said to have his own demographic advantage in Nevada because of its sizable Mormon population. But Mormons only comprise about 6.5% of the population and are already a high-turnout, conservative-leaning bloc. In 2008, people from religions other than Protestantism and Catholicism accounted for 7% in Nevada’s exit polls, and Mormons said they preferred McCain to Obama by more than 3-1 in pre-election polling. Romney can probably do even better, but that’s unlikely to swing Nevada for him on its own…

Nonetheless, Nevada isn’t quite on the knife’s edge. Among the polling averages of the 11 states considered toss-ups under the most generous definition in 2012–Nevada, Iowa, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and Missouri–Nevada has the second largest gap, at +5.2 percentage points for Obama. That’s reflected in campaign resource allocation as well. Despite consistent spending in the Silver State, the President’s campaign has directed more to states like Iowa, North Carolina and Virginia. American Crossroads, the Republican third-party group spending on Romney’s behalf while he awaits his party’s nomination, has spent more in almost every swing state than in Nevada.