Las Vegas (CNN)Donald Trump returns to Nevada Wednesday for the final presidential debate in a state that is critical to his path to the White House -- and one where he has remained tied with Hillary Clinton despite all the turmoil rocking his campaign.
Why Donald Trump is betting on Nevada
Nevada has been kind to Trump, handing him a resounding victory in this year's caucuses that helped him clinch the Republican nomination, even though he had little in the way of a campaign apparatus and hundreds of volunteers who were entirely new to the presidential process.
The Republican Party is trying to match the enthusiasm of Trump's Nevada supporters with resources, conducting volunteer trainings all over the state this year in an effort to turn Trump's eager supporters into phone-banking and door-knocking regulars. Their biggest challenge will be to catch up with the formidable Democratic machine, powered by labor in a state where union power is strong.
In the latest CNN/ORC poll this week, 46% of likely voters planned to support Clinton, 44% said they would support Trump and 7% said they would support Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Those numbers showed Trump's resilience in Nevada, given that the CNN/ORC survey was conducted after the release of an "Access Hollywood" tape in which Trump boasted about groping women, and as a number of women stepped forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct -- allegations that he has denied.
The numbers also show Clinton's challenge here. During the primaries, many voters in Nevada, including Democrats, expressed reservations about the former secretary of state — questioning her trustworthiness, as well as concerns she was too liberal on Second Amendment issues, which are critical in this state.
Nevada is growing in importance as the campaign reaches the final weeks, in part because it's a state that President Barack Obama carried twice and where Trump shows signs of strength.
Clinton enters this final stretch with a strong advantage in the race to the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency. That means Trump must win all the states that Mitt Romney won in 2012, while also making incursions into blue states that could tip the map in his favor.
But his potential paths have narrowed, particularly as Clinton has held on to her advantage in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Wisconsin and Virginia. And a new poll released Wednesday found Clinton leading in the traditional Republican stronghold of Arizona.
Trump has nudged Iowa in his direction despite Obama's two wins there, but the Republican nominee's path to victory relies on him making a clean sweep of Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Nevada.
Even if all those states were to fall into Trump's column, he would still need to pick up at least five additional electoral votes, which is why he continues to campaign intensively in Pennsylvania and Colorado despite long odds there.
But Clinton has many built-in advantages here -- most notably the growing Hispanic and Asian populations that tilt in her favor.
Democratic and labor groups have made huge efforts this year to register new Hispanic voters, and to help others achieve citizenship through special workshops. Trump's rhetoric about Mexicans and his vow to build a wall have helped accelerate those Democratic efforts. The CNN poll shows Clinton holding a 21-point lead among Hispanic registered voters over Trump in Nevada.
The support for the two candidates in Nevada is also split dramatically by education level. Trump holds a huge lead over Clinton among whites without college degrees, who favor him 58% to 33% for the former secretary of state.
Clinton leads among whites with college degrees 49% to 41%.
As in other states, Clinton leads Trump among women by 15 points; while Trump leads Clinton among men by 10 points.
Clinton and her allies are also outspending Trump. They have spent at least $8.4 million in Nevada, in addition to nearly $50 million on national cable which touches many Nevada households, making the state among the top five of Clinton's targets. One of the ads running frames Trump as "America's bully," featuring him alongside some of the most well-known bullies from the movies.
Trump and his allies have spent $2.5 million in Nevada, making it the sixth most targeted state on his list.
One thing that polls cannot measure is the power of the well-organized turnout operations led by labor groups here, which could lead Clinton to victory.
As the political universe descends on Las Vegas for the final debate, the powerful Culinary Union is staging a series of demonstrations against Trump, calling 2016 "the year of the immigrant voter." Their members plan to protest at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas, calling for a boycott of his properties, and to build a wall outside the property with taco trucks -- a tongue-in-cheek reference to the controversial rhetoric of the founder of "Latinos for Trump" this summer.