Poll: Sanders and Clinton in Nevada dead heat

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are in a tight race to win Nevada, according to a poll taken this week.

The survey, paid for by the conservative Free Beacon, shows a 45-45 tie. It was conducted by TargetPoint of 1,236 potential Nevada caucusgoers from Feb. 8-10, with a margin of error just under 3 percent. That's a lot of interviews -- "867 interviews were completed using automated telephone technology and 369 were conducted using mobile phones," according to the polling instrument, which I have posted below along with the crosstabs.

I understand some, especially partisans, will be skeptical of the results because of the Free Beacon's leanings and because the questions after the horse race will be seen as anti-Hillary. But this is silly. Any poll should be judged on its merits and not by who paid for it.

My take:

Some thoughts:

►If the survey is right -- and remember how hard it is to gauge voter sentiment for caucuses -- it would explain the ludicrous expectation-lowering by the Clinton campaign. Maybe the poll matches their internals.

The crosstabs (alas, there is no race breakdown) look reasonable on regional breakdown: 66 percent for Clark, 18 percent for Washoe and 16 percent for the rurals. Maybe a little low on Clark, but in the ballpark.

Clinton loses on trust, 53-29; on who cares about people like you, 49-36; and who is progressive, 49-36. Danger, Will Robinson!

The sample is almost 60 percent female (about what it as in '08), which ought to worry Clinton. Sanders leads 63-16 among young voters (18-29), and if there are a lot of youngsters who register on Caucus Day.... She's also losing among independents, as the Free Beacon reported.

Yes, there are a lot of Free Beaconish questions about bad issues for Hillary. But they all come after the initial horse race.

Finally, let's remember: Even in  '08, with the record Democratic turnout, it was only 27 percent. So the cliche of cliches is apt here: It's all about which campaign gets its voters to the polls. And with same-day registration on Feb. 20 -- new registrants were a quarter of the turnout in '08 -- the accuracy of any pre-caucus poll should be taken with a grain of salt. Or 100.

The documents:

nv-toplines.pdf by Jon Ralston

nv-crosstabs.pdf by Jon Ralston