Romney holds strong lead in Nevada, poll shows

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, celebrates his Florida primary election win at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Mitt Romney
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Heading into the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds a commanding lead in the western state, according to a new poll.

The former Massachusetts governor wins the support of 45 percent of Nevada Republicans who say they plan to caucus on Saturday, according to a survey from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and CBS affiliate 8NewsNow. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wins 25 percent support, while former Sen. Rick Santorum wins 11 percent and Rep. Ron Paul garners 9 percent.

Romney has two primary victories under his belt, and the Nevada caucuses are the first in a series of nominating contests this month in which Romney could pick up true momentum.

Romney, who is bolstered by the relatively large Mormon community in Nevada, won 51 percent of the state's support in the 2008 caucuses. Mormons made up about 25 percent of caucus-goers in 2008. This year, more than 85 percent of Mormons plan to caucus for Romney, today's survey shows, while the other candidates receive single-digit support from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Though Paul comes in fourth in the Review-Journal survey, the congressman has been building up a strong organization in Nevada. He placed second in the 2008 primary with 14 percent and tends to perform more strongly in caucus states, where turnout is relatively low and emphatic supporters have more of an impact. Paul essentially sat out of the Florida primaries to focus on Nevada and other caucus states.

Gingrich, meanwhile, has signaled he intends to compete for the GOP nomination all the way to the Republican national convention in August.

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