Polling the Nevada caucuses is notoriously difficult, but this week, the survey results tended to be pretty accurate. With most of the precincts reporting, Mitt Romney, as expected, cruised to an easy, double-digit win in the Silver State, beating Newt Gingrich by 25 points, 47.6% to 22.7%.
Gingrich tried to assign an asterisk to the results, reminding reporters that Nevada is a “very heavily Mormon state,” but exit polls showed Romney would have won by 17 points even excluding LDS voters.
Speaking of Gingrich, his campaign announced earlier in the day that the former Speaker would host a press conference after the caucus – rather than delivering a speech – which led to speculation that he might end his campaign. “All of you can relax,” Gingrich told reporters. “I’m not going to withdraw. I’m actually pretty happy where we are.” He added that he still fully expects to take the race all the way to the Republican convention in August.
Ron Paul, meanwhile, put quite a bit of effort into competing in Nevada, and suggested yesterday he could come in second. Though his 18% showing yesterday was quite good given Paul’s relative standing in the party, the Texas congressman nevertheless finished four points behind Gingrich, and 29 points behind Romney.
What happens now? The Gingrich campaign will have a few opportunities to get back on track in February, but in general, he doesn’t have a whole lot to look forward to in the coming weeks.
Feb. 7: Minnesota caucuses: A recent Public Policy Polling survey showed Gingrich with a big lead over Romney, suggesting it’s the next contest that can help the former Speaker keep pace with the frontrunner.
Feb. 7: Colorado caucuses: Romney easily won this state four years ago, and is generally expected to do so again.
Feb. 7: Missouri nonbinding primary: As Nate Silver explained recently, Missouri “will hold a primary on Feb. 7, but it has no direct or indirect effect on delegate allocation, which will instead be determined in its March caucuses.” Romney shouldn’t have too much trouble – Gingrich didn’t qualify for the ballot.
Feb. 11: Maine caucuses: Maine holds a week-long process, and while Ron Paul has been making an effort in the state, Romney’s regional advantage is expected to give him the edge.
Feb. 28: Arizona primary: At least some polling suggests the state will be competitive, but at this point, it’s hard to predict.
Feb. 28: Michigan primary: Arguably the most interesting contest in February, Michigan should be an easy one for Romney – he’s from the state and his father was governor – but there’s ample evidence that he struggles with the kind of working-class voters who will dominate the primary.
As for upcoming debates, which Gingrich would love to use to put himself back in contention, there are no debates scheduled again until Feb. 22.
The result is a landscape that appears to favor the frontrunner.