Today the GOP Nevada Caucus will add yet another chapter to the wild ride that has been the 2016 presidential campaign. As the polls and analysts predictions below show, Donald Trump is the overwhelming favorite to win today’s caucus. If he does win tonight, Trump will have won three major contests in a row making him the overwhelming favorite heading into the Super Tuesday contests on March 1. The predictions below include the latest polls from Real Clear Politics and the latest prediction from analyst Nate Silver of FiveThiryEight.com.
If the latest polls are correct Trump will not only win Nevada, but win it big. There were two polls of the Nevada race – both released on February 15. Both having Trump winning by double digits.
A poll from Gravis Marketing has Trump at 39 percent support in Nevada. Ted Cruz comes in a distant second at 23 percent, followed by Marco Rubio at 19 percent. That survey was conducted from February 14-15, 2016. The poll included 687 likely Republican caucus goers in Nevada, which is a fairly large sample size. The poll has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.
A poll from CNN/ORC released on the same date has Trump leading with 45 percent support and Marco Rubio a distant second with 19 percent support. Ted Cruz comes in third with 17 percent. That poll has a very small sample of 245 likely Republican caucus goers and a large margin of error of 6.5 percentage points.
Those two polls are the only recent polls of the Nevada race. Another Gravis Marketing poll released in January had Trump winning with 33 percent support over Cruz at 20 percent. Teh only other polls in the race came from last October and last July. Those polls are too old to be considered predictive, but for what they are worth they both have Trump leading big.
It has been a week since any polling from Nevada has been released, but there is little reason to expect that Trump’s support has gone down following positive coverage from his win in South Carolina over the weekend. Jeb Bush has dropped out of the race, but at best Bush was polling at 5 percent in Nevada. So even if all of Bush supporters went to Rubio or Cruz it would not give them enough support to overtake Trump.
As for the analysts, Nate Silver gives Trump a 64 percent chance of winning Nevada in his “polls-plus forecast.” Silver’s model takes into account the latest polls and assigns a weight to each poll based on recency and reputation for accuracy. Silver’s forecast also takes into account the weight of endorsements. Silver gives Rubio the second best chance of winning Nevada, but still those odds are weak at 25 percent. Ted Cruz is only given a 10 percent chance of winning Nevada in Silver’s model.
Of course the Trump skeptics remain. Josh Voorhees of Slate notes that Nevada is “notoriously difficult to poll” given the population which often works at night and does not answer the phone when pollsters call. In addition Voorhees notes that the small number of polls released from the state allows for some justifiable suspicion of the number. Finally, Voorhees writes that Trump’s weakness is a lack of ground game, and in caucus states, like Iowa where Cruz won and Trump underperformed, a lack of ground game can be more damaging.
Still, Trump has to be considered a favorite in Nevada. If Trump wins the question to be asked will be whether the Trump train has too much momentum to be stopped ahead of Super Tuesday. If Trump loses it will certainly be hyped as a “comeback story” and maybe even a sign from God (if the winner is Cruz) favoring the victor.