MARCH 3, 2015 — Gravis Marketing conducted a poll of the Nevada electorate (Feb. 21-22; 955 registered Nevada voters; 438 likely Republican Nevada Caucus attenders; 324 likely Democratic Nevada Caucus attenders; 193 likely general election voters) in order to test both party nomination contests, and gauge how Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D) shapes up for re-election.
For Republicans, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is again pacing the field, this time with 27 percent of the vote according to the Gravis study. Following in second place, eight percentage points behind, is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 19 percent.
All other candidates posted in single digits. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was third with eight percent; Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) had the most disappointing performance in recording just three percent; and retired Maryland neurosurgeon Ben Carson was not included on the ballot test questionnaire.
For the Democrats, it’s a typical finding at this point in the early election cycle. Former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton leads big, with 58 percent compared to non-candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) claiming 20 percent preference. With little action occurring on the Democratic side, we can expect to see these types of polling results continue until an opponent begins to make a significant move against Clinton.
The Nevada Caucus is highly significant because it is third on the presidential calendar, and one of the states authorized to hold its nominating event prior to March 1, 2016. The Caucuses will be held sometime during February of next year. Feb. 20 is one possible date. The Nevada Republican Party has approved Feb. 4 for their Caucus, but no schedule has been finalized. The event will be held after New Hampshire and before South Carolina, that much is certain. The Iowa Caucus leads off the nominating calendar.
Some interesting general election data is reported. Only one Republican actually leads Clinton in individual Nevada pairings, and that is the state’s governor, Brian Sandoval, who would top her 46-43 percent. Gov. Sandoval has not indicated any inclination to run for president, so the fact that he does well against Clinton in his home state is largely irrelevant. Of the likely candidates, Gov. Walker does the best, trailing the former Secretary of State 43-49 percent. Ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush fares worst against Clinton, trailing 37-50 percent.
Gravis also tested two Republicans against Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, one who is likely to enter the campaign while the other is not. Both Republicans, however, enjoy slight leads over the veteran incumbent senator.
Former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R), who has expressed interest in running, jumps out to a one-point, 46-45 percent, edge over Reid. Adam Laxalt, who won a tight one-point victory over term-limited Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) to become the state’s attorney general last November, has not indicated a penchant for challenging Reid but the poll projects him to a two-point advantage, 48-46 percent.
Early polling in a Nevada Senate race doesn’t mean too much. The top Republicans, Gov. Sandoval, and representatives Mark Amodei (R-NV-2) and Joe Heck (R-NV-3) have each indicated they will not run for the Senate next year, so Reid will likely face a second-tier GOP opponent.
The senator has consistently run better than he polls, so despite this survey suggesting Reid might be falling a bit behind a potential Republican nominee, it will be a very difficult race to defeat the Democratic leader. This is particularly true in a presidential election year when the voter turnout model has been more favorable to Democrats when examining the last two presidential campaigns.