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Nevada Caucus Updates

Republicans in Nevada are caucusing today. The state’s Republican party will begin to report results after 5 p.m., but final numbers will take several more hours. On the other hand, unofficial results are already being reported from some precincts. Throughout, we’ll bring you occasional updates.

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10:07 P.M. Polls Look Ahead to Colorado and Minnesota

Although the exact margin has yet to be determined, Mitt Romney has been declared the winner in the Nevada caucuses tonight.

It appears that Mr. Romney may slightly outperform some expectations. Exit polls showed him winning about 55 percent of the vote in Nevada, versus his FiveThirtyEight forecast of 51 percent. So should Representative Ron Paul, who may get closer to 20 percent than the 15 his percent projected by the forecast.

But the polls did not do badly as compared with 2008, when Mr. Romney’s margin of victory was underestimated by 30 points in Nevada. Nor is it surprising when well-organized campaigns like Mr. Romney’s and Mr. Paul’s outperform their numbers in caucuses.

One of the organizations brave enough to poll the caucuses, Public Policy Polling, will also release surveys in Colorado and Minnesota, which are set to hold caucuses on Tuesday. Their early results, which they have been teasing on their Twitter feed, suggest that Mr. Romney is the favorite in Colorado but will probably not win by Nevada-like margins. Minnesota appears as though it could be quite competitive, however. Mr. Romney won both states in 2008.

Nate Silver

8:34 P.M. Rural Counties Show Down Turnout

The five mostly rural Nevada counties to have completely reported all their results so far — Churchill, Eurkea, Mineral, Nye and Pershing — reported that a total of 2,111 votes were cast in this year’s caucuses. That meant that turnout was down by about 20 percent from 2008, when a total of 2,600 votes were reported in the same five counties.

Nate Silver

6:35 P.M. Romney Support Rises With Income

According to early entrance polls as published by CNN, Mitt Romney’s support in Nevada was very closely correlated with the income of the voter.

The entrance polls estimate that Mr. Romney won 31 percent of the vote among those whose households made under $30,000 per year. But he won 48 percent among households between $30,000 and $50,000 per year, 58 percent among those making between $50,000 and $100,000 and 62 percent among those with six-figure incomes.

Nevada’s electorate tonight was relatively well off. As many voters today made over $100,000 per year as under $50,000, according to the entrance polls.

Nate Silver

5:40 P.M. Entrance Poll Shows Higher Mormon Turnout Than Surveys

Early entrance polls show that 26 percent of voters there are Mormon. That’s about the same as in 2008. But it’s slightly higher than the most recent pre-election poll predicted: Public Policy’s Polling survey projected 20 percent of voters to be Mormon.

If Mitt Romney dominates the Mormon votes, as he did in 2008 when he won 95 percent of the group, higher Mormon turnout than projected by the polls would make him a favorite to beat the pre-election surveys.

Nate Silver

5:10 P.M. Nevada Could be Tough Hold for Obama in November

My view is that there is too much rather than too little attention paid to state-by-state polls at this stage of the general election race. The numbers can be volatile — and changes in the fundamental factors like the economy are almost certain to shake up the race from its present state.

Still, sometimes there are states where the evidence seems to speak for or against the incumbent candidate. So far, in Nevada, the evidence seems to point to a potentially tough time for President Obama.

Start with Mr. Obama’s approval rating in the state. It was 41 percent in 2011, according to polling conducted by Gallup throughout the year. Mr. Obama’s approval rating is now a few points higher throughout the country than it was for most of last year. But even if you look at his ratings in Nevada relative to the national numbers, they don’t look so good for him. Mr. Obama’s Gallup approval rating averaged about 44 percent in Gallup polling throughout 2011, so Nevada lagged 3 points behind the national trend. This stands in contrast to 2008, when Mr. Obama received 55 percent of the vote in Nevada — 2 points better than he did nationally.

Why is Mr. Obama polling poorly in the Silver State? One obvious reason may be the housing crisis; by various estimates, somewhere between 50 and 70 percent of Nevada mortgages are underwater. Meanwhile, Nevada’s unemployment rate was 13 percent as of November 2011, considerably above the national average.

In addition, states in the interior West sometimes exhibit an anti-incumbent tendency, being more inclined to change horses than parts of the country like the Midwest. Bill Clinton, for instance, won both Colorado and Montana in 1992, when he was challenging George H.W. Bush. But he lost both states as the incumbent in 1996, even though he did slightly better nationwide.

On top of that, the demographics of Nevada aren’t bad for Mr. Obama’s most likely Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. Higher turnout among Mormon voters could help Mr. Romney a bit. And although the state has a high unemployment rate, it isn’t necessarily low income — the median household income was $51,525 there in 2010, above the national average of $49,445. So even if there is a “class warfare” scenario in 2012 — and Mr. Obama gains ground among working-class voters while losing ground among higher-income voters — this is not one of those states where it would help him.

But one caution: polls in Nevada have underestimated Democratic performance of late. In 2008, most polls had Mr. Obama winning Nevada by 6 or 7 points — less than his actual margin of victory, which was 12.5 points. And in 2010, most polls had the Republican Sharron Angle winning the Senate race, but Harry Reid was re-elected instead.

Still, it’s not just Mr. Obama’s approval ratings that look poor in Nevada. His fundamentals aren’t strong there, either.

Nate Silver

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.