Public Policy Polling:
Mitt Romney is headed for a dominant victory in Nevada on Saturday. PPP finds him polling at 50% to 25% for Newt Gingrich, 15% for Ron Paul, and 8% for Rick Santorum.
Certainly in Nevada the Mormon vote will get a lot of attention and Romney leads Paul 78-14 with that group, which we project to account for 20% of the vote. But Romney's dominance in Nevada goes well beyond that. He's winning voters describing as 'very conservative,' a group he's had huge amount of trouble with in other states, by a 43-34 margin over Gingrich. He's also winning men, women, Hispanics, whites, and every age group that we track. This will be a pretty thorough victory for him.
The bad news for Gingrich isn't just that's headed for a distant second place finish. Nevada Republicans actively dislike him, with only 41% holding a favorable opinion of him to 49% with a negative one. That's an indication that GOP voters might be starting to sour on him again, sending his numbers back to pre-South Carolina levels.
Santorum has great favorability numbers, with 64% of voters seeing him positively to only 23% with a negative opinion. That was the case in Florida as well, but it's just not translating into much support for him. He's the most frequent 2nd choice candidate in Nevada with 30% picking him on that question and no one else above 16%. That's more evidence that in a less crowded field he might be able to get some more traction. But for now it's just not happening.
It looks like Paul will be able to build on his 14% showing in Nevada in 2008, but catching up to Gingrich for 2nd place appears unlikely. His key will be turning out young voters at a higher rate than we're projecting. With voters under 45 he leads Gingrich by a 23-20 margin. But with older ones he lags behind Newt 29-11.
Romney hits the 70% favorability mark in Nevada, something we've seen for him in very few states. Just 25% see him unfavorably. That's partially due to an 89/8 standing with Mormons, but he's at a still very strong 64/30 with non-Mormons as well. One thing that's contributing to Romney's strength in Nevada is a strong advantage on the electability question. 56% think he would be the strongest candidate against Barack Obama this fall with no one else topping 21%.
It looks like the main suspense in Nevada Saturday will be whether Romney can crack that 50% mark.