The entrance polls for today’s Nevada caucus appear to show what everyone anticipated: a landslide for Mitt Romney. He won almost every conceivable demographic group including those that are not considered his strengths. Conservatives, Tea Partiers and evangelicals — groups where his support is generally weak — all gave Romney huge pluralities if not outright majorities in Nevada. Part of the reason for this is the large Mormon vote in Nevada. Mormons are only about seven percent of the population there, but entrance polls showed them making up 26 percent of today’s Republican electorate. With 91 percent of Mormons backing their co-religionist Romney, that inflated his support among right-wingers who might trend more toward Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum in other states.
Yet while Mormon support can account for the increased number of avowed conservatives and Tea Partiers who said they were for Romney, that doesn’t account for his getting a whopping 48 percent of evangelical voters in Nevada, with Gingrich receiving only 27 percent and Santorum a paltry 11 percent.
While the challengers appear to have conceded Nevada in advance and spent little time or money there, Romney’s strength across the board is encouraging for him. For Gingrich, the only real concern in Nevada is avoiding falling behind Ron Paul in the battle for second place. While the former speaker has low expectations for all of the February primaries and caucuses, a third place finish will make his task of convincing Republicans that he is a viable alternative to Romney much more difficult.