Nevada’s population has tripled since 1980 and over two-thirds of the state’s current 2.7 million residents live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. This is good news for Democrats, who have been registering nearly twice as many voters than Republicans on a monthly basis since January, and although Las Vegas isn’t the capital, Sin City is safely Democrat territory.
In 2008, Barack Obama won handily Nevada’s then-five electoral votes by a margin of over 120,000 votes. Fast forward to 2012 and the incumbent Democrat president is leading by a slimmer margin for Nevada’s six electoral votes – currently averaging a roughly three and a half point lead. But Republican challenger Mitt Romney has been making important inroads in the Silver State, hinging on Nevada’s staunchly conservative rural areas – and a lot of Nevada is very sparsely populated – as well as the state’s small but vocal Mormon population.
Romney’s message of fiscal responsibility resonates in Nevada, one of the states hardest hit by the Great Recession. With less than two weeks until Election Day, Nevada’s housing market is still struggling and unemployment is still the highest in the nation at 11.8 percent. Will Democrats be able to hold onto their shrinking lead in Nevada? How will Nevada voters cast their votes in 2012 and beyond?
Steve Sebelius, political columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and blogger at slashpolitics.com