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January 26, 2015

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President could face tough battle in possible Obama-Romney matchup in Nevada

Erik Kabik's 2011 in photographs: President Obama in Las Vegas on Oct. 24, 2011.

Erik Kabik's 2011 in photographs: President Obama in Las Vegas on Oct. 24, 2011.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney responds to a question from a reporter after meeting with students at the UNLV Student Union Monday, May 16, 2011.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney responds to a question from a reporter after meeting with students at the UNLV Student Union Monday, May 16, 2011.

President Barack Obama won Nevada by more than 12 points in 2008. But, according to a respected Democratic polling company, if Obama were to face Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, his advantage would be completely erased.

Public Policy Polling gauges an Obama-Romney face-off in the Silver State as a virtual tie, underscoring Nevada’s swing state status.

Obama seems to have lost ground in most of the western states he won decisively in 2008, a sweep that made the region more Democratic than it had been since Bill Clinton’s reelection.

Obama’s advantage hasn’t been reversed nearly so dramatically in the rest of the West. In Colorado, which the president won by nine points, he leads by five. In New Mexico, which Obama won by 14 points, the split is 13.

But in Nevada, not only is his lead gone in an Obama-Romney matchup, pollsters said the situation is “actually worse for Obama” than it looks in the poll.

“A disproportionate number of the undecideds in Obama/Romney polling are Republicans. Romney’s not their first choice for the nomination, so they’re being stubborn and saying they’re undecided for the general, even though it’s pretty much a certainty that they’ll end up voting for the GOP nominee in the end,” Tom Jensen, director of PPP, wrote in a memo released with the poll. “If the election was today and people really had to go ahead and choose between Obama and Romney, I think Romney would do 3-4 points better than he is in current horse race polls.”

If that math plays out — and Jensen cited similar trends among Democrats from 2008, when Obama and Hillary Clinton were vying for the nomination — it would put Romney over the top in Nevada, making it the Western state most likely to switch from the Obama column in 2012.

The projections come from comparing polls taken during 2011 — four polls, in Nevada’s case.

They have a stronger air of legitimacy after Romney squeaked out a win in Iowa, a state where weeks ago he wasn’t expected to even place. He is also sitting pretty in New Hampshire, where a recent poll predicted he’d win 41 percent of the vote.

But Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul are actively challenging him in the Granite State.

Obama’s campaign has also been laying into Romney, scoffing that he is “the 25 percent man” — Romney’s share of the vote in Iowa, where he won the state party caucuses by eight votes.

It’s also about the share of the vote he’s culled over several months of polls. While other GOP presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum rose and fell in the polls — in that order — Romney’s share of the national Republican electorate has remained steady in the low 20 percent range, neither gaining nor losing the spoils of the others’ blocs as they peaked and plummeted.

But if Democratic pollsters predict things are getting worse for Obama, there’s good news for the president from a Republican polling outfit.

A new count released by Rasmussen Reports, a Republican polling firm, showed Obama and Romney are tied. It’s a sharp improvement for Obama over last month, when the same polling firm had him losing to Romney 45 to 39.

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