Wednesday, April 4, 2012 | 3:45 p.m.
WASHINGTON - The conventional wisdom in political circles is that Republicans’ protracted primary season will boost President Barack Obama’s reelection bid. In Nevada, that’s playing out starkly in the polls.
As recently as this January, Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm, showed the president in dire straits in the Silver State: His 12 point advantage from the 2008 primary was completely erased, leaving Obama neck-and-neck in a potential matchup with Mitt Romney.
Now, Obama is favored over the Republican nominee apparent -- even Ron Paul poses a bigger threat.
“Nevada really captures how the presidential race has shifted over the last five months,” Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a statement accompanying the poll. “Barack Obama’s more popular, Mitt Romney’s less popular, and this is looking like much less of a swing state.”
The poll shows Obama winning 51 percent to 43 percent in a potential match-up against Romney, and 49 percent to 42 percent in a match-up against Paul.
Obama’s favorability ratings among state residents also outpace any of the Republican candidates: 50 percent of Nevadans polled gave him a thumbs up on jobs performance, while 46 percent disapproved. Romney only pulled 38 percent positive rating, while 51 percent of voters said they had a negative impression of him. (Paul had only a 35 percent positive review, while 53 percent of voters had a negative opinion.)
The shift in the polling parallels two months in which the Republican primary process has grown increasingly negative: Now that the candidates no longer have to periodically share a debate stage, there’s little incentive to be nice on the stump or in campaign commercials. Democrats have exploited the infighting.
If the scales have swung to the Democrats’ favor, there’s little doubt Republicans will work to bring Romney back to the competitive position he enjoyed only a few weeks ago -- especially in Nevada, where he won the state caucus with over 50 percent of the vote.
But the poll suggests that won’t be easy.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval is the most charismatic and popular public figure the Nevada Republicans have who isn't engaged in a tough race for office this November.
But even if Sandoval joined Romney on the ticket as his running mate -- a pairing that while it has been speculated on is looking less and less likely -- it wouldn’t do much to buoy Romney’s standing in Nevada: Sandoval only gets Romney two points, according to the PPP poll, for a 50-to-44 loss against Obama.
Of course, the numbers are only a snapshot in time. Now that the Republican primary season is wrapping up, Romney could begin to close the gap. And as far as the Obama campaign is concerned, they still have a lot of work to do to make sure he doesn’t.