CNN's "entrance polls" (slightly different than exit polls because they ask whom voters plan to support as they enter polling places, not whom they've just voted for as they leave) indicate that Mitt Romney is poised to clean up in today's Nevada caucuses. The only remaining dramas are whether Romney will win a majority, and whether Newt Gingrich may slip to third place behind Ron Paul. On the first question, the former Massachusetts governor appears poised to take an outright majority. He won 57 percent of women and 53 percent of men, so unless the entrance polling data is wildly askew, that should be enough to push Romney into overall majority territory. A few more interesting tidbits:
(1) Romney won every educational background demo, and every age cohort except 17-29 year-olds, who went for Paul by a slim margin.
(2) Romney won all voters making more than $30K per year. He, Gingrich, and Paul roughly split lower income Nevadans, with Paul barely edging out his competitors.
(3) The former Bay State governor carried 61 percent of registered Republicans, with 20 percent for Gingrich. Ron Paul won independents 48-31 over Romney.
(4) Romney won a majority of "very conservative" voters at 51 percent, more than doubling Gingrich's 24 percent in this category. He also wins a bare majority among those who describe themselves as Tea Party supporters -- ie, Sharron Angle's base. (Angle, incidentally, is a Santorum supporter. The former Senator is expected to come in fourth tonight).
(5) Romney won a plurality of Protestants, a majority of Catholics, and -- as anticipated -- more than 90 percent of Mormons, who comprised over 1/4 of the GOP electorate here.
(6) Of those Nevadans who said a candidate's ability to defeat Obama, personal character, or previous experience were the most important factor in their vote, Romney won majorities of all three groups. If voters were looking for the "true conservative," they picked Ron Paul 45-31 over Gingrich. Newt won one percent of Nevada Republicans seeking a candidate with strong character.
The moral of this story is that tonight will be rather anti-climactic: Romney will win big. His supporters will say this outcome is a big deal because Nevada is a key swing state. Mitt opponents will downplay the results, arguing that Romney had a major built-in advantage, having won the state in 2008 and by enjoying near-unanimous support among LDS voters. The political reality will lie somewhere in between. Romney's win won't be quite as important as his backers will claim, but in terms of momentum, it's very big. Parting thought: Newt won't drop out tonight, but might he finish behind Ron Paul? Paul won 23 percent of men and 14 percent of women here. Gingrich's numbers were 18 and 21, respectively. How will those numbers shake out in the final tally? Failing to achieve a top-two finish here would be a blow to Team Newt, which has suffered more than its share of setbacks here in the Silver State.
UPDATE - Millionaire Sheldon Adelson -- whose magnificent hotel I'm staying at here in Las Vegas -- has reportedly informed Mitt Romney that he will bankroll his campaign to the tune of millions, should he capture the nomination. Until that time, however, Adelson remains a Gingrich supporter, and says he will continue to fund the former Speaker's effort to win the GOP nod.