Saturday, January 19, 2008

Romney Wins Nevada GOP Caucuses!

The Associated Press has called the Nevada race for Romney:

Mitt Romney won Republican presidential caucuses in Nevada on Saturday while John McCain and Mike Huckabee dueled in a hard-fought South Carolina primary, a campaign doubleheader likely to winnow the crowded field of White House rivals....

Romney's western victory marked a second straight success for the former Massachusetts governor, coming quickly after a first-place finish in the Michigan primary revived a faltering campaign.

Nevada Republicans said the economy and illegal immigration were their top concerns, according to preliminary results from surveys of voters entering their caucuses. Romney led among voters who cited both issues.

Mormons gave Romney about half his votes. He is hoping to become the first member of his faith to win the White House. Alone among the Republican contenders, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas aired television ads in Nevada.

The first scattered returns showed Romney with more than 50 percent of the vote. Paul, McCain and Huckabee were tightly bunched, far behind the leader.

He also won at least 14 of the 31 Republican National Convention delegates at stake.
The New York Times reports on Romney's victory statement:

As the rest of the Republican field focused on the primary in South Carolina, Mr. Romney flew to Nevada last week for a last-minute push. His rivals overlooked Nevada, largely because state rules do not automatically assign delegates to the winning candidate, unlike in South Carolina, where voters were going to the polls Saturday.

“Today, the people of Nevada voted for change in Washington,” Mr. Romney said in a statement released by his campaign. “For far too long, our leaders have promised to take the action necessary to build a stronger America, and still the people of Nevada and all across this country are waiting. Whether it is reforming health care, making America energy independent or securing the border, the American people have been promised much and are now ready for change.”

Before flying to Florida on Saturday to campaign for the next Republican contest, Mr. Romney handed out doughnuts to supporters and caucusgoers at a 7:30 a.m. stop at a Las Vegas high school. Many of the several dozen in the enthusiastic crowd, however, appeared to be supporters who had driven in from California, as caucusgoers did not need to show up until 9 a.m.

In a sign of just how much better organized Mr. Romney was in the state than his rivals, all but one of the signs lining the entrance to the high school were his, with a lone sign for Senator John McCain of Arizona interrupting the pattern.

Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, got on the back of a pickup truck to address the crowd of well-wishers in the early morning cold.

“You guys have been turning folks out, and by virtue of that I think we’re going to have a great, successful day today,” Mr. Romney said.

“Across the country in South Carolina, people are voting there also and I’m hoping to do real well there,” he continued. “I’m hoping to win, but I don’t know what the outcome will be. But with two golds and two silvers, we’re feeling pretty good.”

Mr. Romney also focused on Nevada because the state has a sizable Mormon population.

Although Mr. Romney came in second in the two early contests that attracted the most attention, Iowa and New Hampshire, his success here does give him claim to three victories. He won the Michigan primary on Tuesday and the Wyoming caucuses earlier in the month.

The Times notes an important point:

Still, his victory here is certain to be overshadowed later in the day by the outcome in South Carolina, where pre-election polls had shown Mr. McCain and former Gov. Mike Huckabee to be in a tight race.

Check back for news on the S.C. primary!

Photo Credit: New York Times