High Stakes in Nevada: Can The Newt “Trump” The Mitt?

The next stop in the Republican road show is Nevada, which holds its caucus this Saturday.  In 2008, Mitt Romney won this state easily, with 51% of the vote, in large part because of strong organization and turnout by the state’s substantial Mormon population (about 7% of the population).  Based on entrance polls, fully 25% of those participating in the 2008 Republican caucus were Mormons, and 94% of them supported Romney.  Barring a major gaffe, there’s no reason to believe he won’t reprise his 2008 victory on Saturday.  Of greater interest, perhaps, is whether Ron Paul, who is counting on doing well in caucus states, can beat Newt Gingrich for second place.  Paul finished second in Nevada in 2008, at 14%, barely edging McCain.

Although caucus states are notoriously difficult to poll, PublicPolicyPolling (PPP’s) one-day poll indicates that Romney is up by 20% over Gingrich, with Paul in third.  However, media reports indicate that The Donald – hotel magnate Donald Trump – is set to make a “major announcement at noon” today.   Rumors are that he will endorse The Newt who, you may recall, was one of the only Republicans who bothered to travel to Trump Towers last year to genuflect before The Donald, and who also had agreed to participate in The Donald’s debate when most of the other Republicans opted not to.  It appears that Newt’s diligence in courting The Donald may now pay off.   Although I have to say I’m not convinced these media leaks are accurate; it’s not like The Donald to back a loser.  He’s a front-runner through and through, so it would make more sense for him to endorse The Mitt.

Assuming the media reports are true, however, this sets up an interesting dynamic.  The Mitt likes to fire people.  The Donald has constructed an entire television program based on this premise.  Who has more “fire”-power?  Alas for The Newt, I think The Mitt’s organizational advantage is going to trump The Donald’s endorsement.  Barring a major Romney gaffe, he should win Nevada.

Keep in mind that the ultimate prize here are Nevada’s 28 delegates. Moreover, this is a closed caucus; only registered Republicans can participate. The delegates are apportioned as follows: 10 are awarded to whoever wins the state, and an additional 12 are divided up based on the winners of the four congressional districts, three are reserved for the party, and there are three “bonus” delegates. Candidates must clear a 3.57% vote threshold to be eligible for delegates. Note also that Saturday’s caucus is merely the first step in a three-step process to determine who gets the delegates so, although it will be possible to estimate the delegate allocation based on the first step voting on Saturday, the process will not be finalized until the county and then state-level voting takes place.

Nevada is the first in a succession of caucuses stretched out through the month of February that will test the candidates’ organizational skills and resources.   Colorado will hold its caucus on Tuesday.  Minnesota also has a caucus on Tuesday, but its results are non-binding.  Missouri will hold a non-binding primary on Tuesday.  Although the results are non-binding, Rick Santorum is banking heavily on a strong performance there, particularly since Newt is not on the ballot.  Maine, meanwhile, will be organizing a series of local caucuses throughout the period of February 4-11. These caucuses will include non-binding presidential straw polls whose results will be announced on February 11.  Ron Paul has already been campaigning in Maine.

We will try to keep you abreast of these results as they come in, beginning with Saturday’s caucus in the Silver State.  In a clash of financial titans, it’s The Donald vs. The Mitt.  Who has better hair?  Ok, never mind.  Who gets to say, “You’re fired”?   My money’s on The Mitt.

UPDATE: 11:20 a.m.  Dueling news leaks: ABC News is reporting that in fact The Donaldis going to endorse The Mitt.  Frankly, this makes more sense to me – I can’t see The Donald willing to tarnish his brand name by backing a second-place finisher.  In any event, we should find out soon  – The Donald is set to make his announcement at noon.  Not that it matters.

UPDATE II: It’s official.  The Donald is in fact endorsing The Mitt, not The Newt.  Not that it makes any difference at all.  But, frankly, I’m relieved.  It would have been so unlikeThe Donald not to endorse the front-runner.  Although apparently he led The Newt on for a while, but in the end The Donald was true to his character.

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