It would take an act of God at this point for Mitt Romney to lose today's Nevada caucuses, and rightly so, seeing as a quarter of the GOP electorate in that state identifies as Mormon. The candidate is enjoying a double-digit lead there, and could take 51 percent of the vote, The New York Times' Nate Silver anticipates. (Silver also notes that Florida's primary had 40 polls leading up to the vote, and points to several factors for the comparative lack of interest -- not the least of which being a little distraction called the Super Bowl.) Gingrich's closest rival, Newt Gingrich, has all but conceded, telling Fox News that he hopes to finish a "solid second."
CBS News has compiled a viewer's guide explaining how the caucus will actually work:
The state is large in geography but is relatively small in population, and it will feature a far smaller electorate than we saw last Tuesday in Florida (perhaps 50,000 participants compared to Florida's 1.6 million), but like Florida, only registered Republicans can participate ... In terms of timing, Nevada's caucuses are unlike Iowa's of a month ago in that the caucus gatherings will take place at different times throughout the state, with people casting ballots throughout a large part of the day. Watchers can expect to start seeing complete results sometime around 7:00 pm PT.
While it may not be as exciting as the Florida primaries, the Nevada caucuses still manage to overshadow those of Maine, which also begin today and continue through the week. Romney hasn't visited Maine at all during this cycle -- nor for that matter have Gingrich or Rick Santorum, both widely considered non-entities among Republican voters there -- but he easily took the state in 2008, and he's confident he'll do so again, Politico reports. Romney's absence leaves a crack open for Ron Paul to inch ahead in the race. Seeing an opportunity to amass delegates in the state even if he doesn't finish first, Paul trudged up and down snowy Maine streets in the last week of January, pressing mitten with potential voters:
His schedule focused on locations on or near college campuses, where he is a favorite of younger voters. He had a private meeting with Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a tea-party favorite. and nabbed the endorsement of L.L. Bean heiress Linda Bean.
It will take a while before Paul finds out if his efforts worked: The results will be announced on Feb. 11, but delegates won't be awarded until the state convention in May.