Tag Archives: Nevada caucus

What Happens In Vegas…Assessing Mitt’s Win (And My SuperBowl Pick)

Football coach Bill Parcells was famous for responding, when asked to assess his team’s record, “It is what it is.”   His point, of course, is that a team’s success is, in the end, based solely on its wins and losses.   Everything else that the sports pundits spend time analyzing is secondary.

Using the Parcell’s standard, last night was a very good night for Mitt Romney.   Based solely on the (as yet incomplete) returns, it looks like Mitt will win at least 48% of the Nevada caucus vote.  My guess is that percentage will go a bit higher as the remaining returns from Clark County come in (Mitt did very well in that county four years ago.)  Assuming Mitt comes close to 50%, he will have more than doubled the vote of the second place finisher New Gingrich, who right now has about 23% of the vote.  Indeed, Mitt would best the totals of Gingrich and Rick Santorum, his conservative rivals, combined.   Exit polls show, moreover, that Mitt beat Newt among conservatives, Tea Party supporters, all income groups – it was an across the board victory. With the second decisive win in a row, Mitt sits comfortably in the driver’s seat of this nomination process.

And yet.

And yet I don’t think Mitt’s victory does much to remove the doubts of those who believe he is a weak candidate.  To begin, it appears as if overall turnout in Nevada was down from 2008, when 44,000 Republicans caucused.  (There are approximately 400,000 registered Republicans in Nevada.)  If so, it will be the second contest in a row where Mitt’s victory was associated with a drop in voter turnout.  It’s hard to know what to make of this enthusiasm gap, but I don’t think it bodes well for the Mittster as we look down the road.  Compare that to the Democratic turnout in 2008, when more than 100,000 voters caucused in Nevada to give Hillary Clinton a resounding victory over Barack Obama.

And while it is true that Mitt seems to have expanded his coalition to include a majority of Nevada’s Tea Party and conservative voters – two groups that he has had trouble winning in previous events – as I noted last night it is hard to tell how much of that support came from Mormons who self-identify as conservatives and who support the Tea Party movement.  Looking at the crosstabs of the PPP poll from last week, for instance, fully 80% of Nevada Mormons described themselves as conservative.   It is no surprise, then, that Mitt did well with conservatives in Nevada, but it does not mean he will win that group in states with a smaller Mormon population.

My point here is that the fundamental demographics indicated that Mitt should do well in Nevada, just as they suggested he should win New Hampshire and Florida.   But nothing I saw last night changes my belief that Mitt, as yet, has not excited the Republican base.  In the end, turnout was down from 2008, and he likely received a smaller percentage of the vote (or at least did not increases his share) from a year when he failed to win the Republican nomination.

Of course, we should not lose sight of Parcell’s dictum.  Mitt is in line, pending results down the road, to pick up another 12 or so delegates in Nevada.   That would give Mitt about 79 pledged delegates so far, compared to 29 for Newt who is in second place.   There’s still a long way to go – Mitt needs to pick up another 1,054 or so delegates to clinch the nomination – but any candidate would rather be in Mitt’s position than in Newt’s at this stage.  By all measures, then, Mitt is winning this race, and he should increase that delegate lead after the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado on Tuesday, and Maine next Saturday.   And that’s the bottom line.

Of perhaps greater interest on this, Superbowl Sunday, is that my Nevada prediction is looking positively uncanny, with the slight exception of understating Santorum’s support.  I wish I could attribute that to my use of a science-based prediction model.  Alas, it was based mostly on intuition, experience and not a little bit of luck. Nonetheless, I know my success makes many of you eager to know my Super Bowl prediction, particularly after I nailed the score of the last Patriots game almost exactly.

Here’s the problem.  As a dyed-in-the-wool Patriots fan, I can’t bring myself to state my prediction. It is too painful to actually write the words.  I trust you understand what I’m trying to say here.  Some thoughts are better left unspoken.

So instead, let me conclude with this advice – Go Patriots! – and some happy memories:

No matter what happens today, no one can take that memory away.

Leading Las Vegas! (Nevada Predictions, and What To Expect)

It’s caucus day in Nevada, and Mitt Romney – according to polls  – is poised for an easy victory.   It is true that because of the low number of participants (about 44,000 in the 2008 Nevada GOP caucus), it is much more difficult to poll a caucus state than it is a primary; pollsters need to work much harder to locate potential caucus voters.  In 2008, no poll came within 20% of Romney’s final total, if I recall correctly.  So we should be somewhat skeptical that the final results will perfectly match the latest polling figures. Nonetheless, based on Romney’s performance in Nevada in 2008, the state’s demographics, and the size of his polling lead, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say Mitt should win easily today.

Nonetheless, there are a number of interesting subplots that I’ll be following.  Most importantly, of course, this is a nomination race that will be won by accumulating delegates.  All three of Romney’s rivals – Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum – are showing no indications that they are going to leave the race any time soon.  Although no delegates are directly awarded based on today’s caucus results – it’s only the first of a three-step process – the results do generally provide an indication of the eventual delegate allocation for the state.   With that in mind, all four candidates are hoping to mobilize their base and win a chunk of delegates.  Here’s what to expect.

Mitt will win this, barring a major upset.  The question is by how much?  Ideally, he wants to win big – preferably with more than 50% of the vote – to drive the media toward the inevitability narrative.   He also wants turnout to be up to reverse the perception that his wins haven’t been characterized by the high turnout that one associates with enthusiastic supporters.  He’s counting on a strong turnout among the state’s Mormon population to reverse that perception. One question is whether his “I’m not focused on the poor” remarks will hurt him in a state where unemployment is over 12%.

Gingrich has been running most strongly among the Tea Party faction, but – at about 30% of likely voters – they are not quite as large in the more moderate Nevada as they have been in other states, and Sharron Angle, the Tea Party favorite in the 2010 Senate race, has already come out in favor of Santorum. (In 2008, entrance polls indicated 24% of caucus participants characterized themselves as evangelical, and 40% as conservative.)  But so far the Tea Party has shown little inclination to back Mitt in broad numbers.  Will that change in Nevada?  Or will they unite behind Newt as the “non-Mitt”?  And can they recapture the energy that drove the movement in 2010? Gingrich has been very slow to get an organization going in Nevada, and it is unclear how much that will hurt him today.

Santorum has been appealing to social conservatives, but the main issues in Nevada are the economy, with unemployment over 12%, and the housing collapse – Nevada is among the leaders in home foreclosures.  Can Santorum broaden his appeal to include the economic populists who may be looking for an alternative to Romney?  He has been working hard to cut into Gingrich’s support by trying to portray Newt as the “moon man” with the grandiose ideas.   That didn’t work in Florida, but it may play better here.

This is Ron Paul’s second time around in Nevada.  In 2008 he finished a distant second to Romney, with 14% of the vote, so he knows the lay of the electoral land.  Can he get his committed Paulistas to come out on his behalf?  Note that he is banking big on picking up chunks of delegates in the caucuses in Nevada, Maine (which also begins voting today), Colorado and Minnesota.   In contrast to Gingrich and Santorum, he is better organized to do so.

As I noted in my previous post, there are (eventually) 28 nonbound delegates at stake.  Most of the state’s caucuses will be held starting from 3-6 Eastern Time and continuing until the voting. Although one of the bigger caucuses in Clark County may run much later, I expect early results to be announced by 8 p.m.  tonight, Eastern Time.  I’m not sure how the networks are covering this, but I’ll be on later with updates as warranted.

It is rather pointless to make a prediction of the popular vote in a caucus state, but since you’ve come to expect it (and since I’ve been on something of a roll in my predictions), here goes:

Romney 50%

Gingrich 24%

Paul 19%

Santorum 6%

As always, no wagering at home.  Remember, I’m a professional.   I’ll be back on shortly before 8 p.m.  In the meantime, here’s some vintage Elvis to keep you occupied:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post said Sharron Angle endorsed Romney – as Jason points out, that was incorrect. She’s endorsed Santorum. I’ve made the correction in the text.

2:16 UPDATE.  Early caucus results are trickling in via Tweeter posts.  My back of the envelope addition has the return pretty close to what I predicted so far – Mitt getting 50%, with Newt slightly besting Paul for second and Rick trailing far behind.

4:01 UPDATE.  Just eyeballing precinct results (and keep in mind there’s more than 1800 precincts that have to report) it looks like Romney is cleaning up and is on pace to break 50%.  Of course, this is all preliminary.   Second place looks to be a battle between Paul and Gingrich.  Again, nothing official will be reported until 8 p.m. eastern time, and a few precincts won’t even have reported by then.

5 p.m. UPDATE.  It’s fascinating to keep track of the twitterverse musings re: Nevada – there’s a distinct anti-Newt bias among the top tweeters who appear to be pushing a Paul second-place finish.  It makes it hard to know who is trying to push results by reporting precinct results.  Although it appears Gingrich is ahead, the claim is that Paul will gain as the rural precincts begin reporting.   I confess that I have no idea.

5:12  Newt has scheduled a late night press conference (by eastern time – it’s 8 p.m. pacific), and already the twitterverse is alive with rumors that he’s withdrawing.  Doubtful.  Very very doubtful.

5:30  Gingrich supporters are tweeting furiously to remind everyone that many precincts are remaining open to allow Jewish voters observing the Sabbath to vote.

5:40 The entrance polls apparently are showing about 26% Mormon turnout – not much different from 2008, as I recall.  And it does not appear turnout is up over 2008 either.

5:50 – The ratio of Mormons to evangelicals is almost exactly the same this year as it was in 2008.  This tells me Mitt is likely to reprise his 2008 performance, but not much more.

I’ll be switching to a new post at 6 when The Cable begins live coverage.   As always, you are invited to join in.



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.