NEW YORK (
) -- Two Nevada polls have tapped Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich as the top two candidates in the state, but the Nevada Republican Party chair guesses the caucuses will come down to Romney and Ron Paul.
The most recent surveys could come as a surprise because
Paul has campaigned heavily
in the state -- where he finished second in the 2008 GOP presidential race -- while Gingrich hadn't open offices in Nevada until the past week.
| Nevada's caucuses will be held Feb. 4.
"I hear a little bit more Mitt Romney chatter than Ron Paul, but the amount of tea party folks and libertarians that we have out here has just grown more and more," Amy Tarkanian said in an interview. "If I had to guess, it's going to be between one of those two, absolutely."
The polls -- from the
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Public Policy Polling
-- showed Romney with a comfortable lead in Nevada as he grabbed some 45% favor among GOP voters and led Gingrich in the polls by about 15 to 20 percentage points.
Tarkanian also pointed out that Gingrich's ground game in Nevada seems to have been too little too late.
After the former House speaker won a shocking victory in South Carolina, his campaign rolled to Florida with the intention of sweeping the state's crucial 50 delegates. But Romney's enormous television- and radio-advertising push and his two exceptional debate performances led to Gingrich's undoing. The former Massachusetts governor crushed Gingrich by 14 percentage points.
Gingrich spent heavily in Florida, a move that seemed to peg the candidate's campaign life on its primary race. The decision left him dark in Nevada and most of the following primary states (Colorado, Maine, Missouri, Minnesota). With only four days for a full pivot from Florida to Nevada, Romney held a significant advantage against Gingrich, while Paul and Rick Santorum benefited from having skipped Florida to campaign early out west.
"We have a huge Ron Paul following out here, and a huge Mitt Romney following. ... Those two never left our state," Tarkanian said. "They are both organized like I've never seen, they have coalitions put together like I've never seen; Ron Paul even has a [Latter-day Saint's Church] coalition ... so not all the Mormon's are going to go to Mitt Romney."