We are now just minutes away from getting the first results in the 2012 Nevada caucuses.
So besides listening to The Fix’s Nevada playlist, what else can you do to get ready for the big night?
Funny you should ask. After the jump, The Fix has put together a few things you should watch for in tonight’s results and the aftermath.
* What’s the margin?
Mitt Romney is supposed to win, and he did so here in 2008 by 35 points. If he can match that margin, it will be a pretty strong indication that he’s the solid GOP front-runner.
At the same time, Romney has a lot of built-in advantages in the state, where it’s likely that about 25 percent of caucus-goers will share his Mormon faith, so he’s fighting expectations.
We still say that if he wins by 20-plus points, it will be a big win. If it’s a little less than that – double digits – he’s got no reason for concern.
If it’s single digits, it will be tougher for Romney to explain.
* Does Paul’s effort pay off?
Despite Romney’s big 2008 margin, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) made a concerted early effort to go after delegates in this state. He even skipped Florida to focus on the upcoming caucus states (Colorado, Maine and Minnesota also have contests in the coming days).
Paul got at least 20 percent of the vote in Iowa and New Hampshire, but then fell to 13 percent in South Carolina and 7 percent in Florida.
It’s time for him to reassert himself as a major contender, and he may do just that if he can finish second and improve on his 14 percent share of the vote from 2008.
* How do Hispanics vote?
We noted after Romney’s win in Florida that he made big progress among the Hispanic population there, increasing his vote share from 14 percent in 2008 to 54 percent this year.
But Hispanics out West are different from those in Florida — and not just because of the different countries they come from.
Hispanics out West are more concerned with immigration policy and generally less conservative.
Romney took 41 percent of the Hispanic vote in Nevada in 2008. Can he expand that tonight and put to rest questions about whether his immigration policy is too conservative? He would certainly like to.
* Where do they go from here?
As mentioned above, for the first time, candidates will have multiple states competing for their attention on Tuesday.
Rick Santorum seems to have hitched his wagon to a Missouri primary that has no delegates at stake but that gives him a chance to show his prowess head-to-head with Romney, since Newt Gingrich didn’t make the ballot.
In 2008, Romney in 2008 won all three of the states holding caucuses this week but fell just shy in Missouri.
Paul aims to do well in all the caucuses but did particularly well in Maine and Minnesota in 2008.
And Gingrich — well, it’s anybody guess.
* Does anyone drop out?
We would guess not.
Even if Gingrich’s campaign is being a little ambitious in saying the former speaker will stay in the race till the end, it’s unlikely he would call it quits right after Nevada. He may as well see how he does in Tuesday’s contests before reevaluating his campaign.
The same goes for Santorum, who seems to be trying to hang on until Missouri, at least.
As for Paul, well, he’s not going anywhere any time soon.