Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as was expected, won the Nevada caucus on Saturday by a significant margin. Romney also won Nevada four years ago with 52 percent of the vote.
The win gave Romney back-to-back wins (he won Florida last Tuesday) and will add to the momentum he is trying to build to wrap-up the Republican nomination early –despite not having even amassed 100 delegates of the 1144 that are needed to win the nomination.
Romney has the resources and the organization the other candidates do not. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are not even on the ballots in important states that will be voting soon. Gingrich, for instance, is not on the ballot in Tuesday’s Missouri caucus (it is a non-binding beauty contest, but Gingrich loses a chance to gain the free media he so desperately needs). Santorum and Gingrich are not on the important Virginia ballot; Virginia votes on Super Tuesday, March 6. Romney will do well in the February caucuses and the Arizona primary on Feb. 28. He is furthermore positioned to continue accumulating delegates.
Though Romney could stumble because conservatives are lukewarm at best toward him, either Gingrich or Santorum would have to drop out or one of them would have to amass the requisite buzz and the war chest quickly enough to compete with Romney as the race goes national.
Ann Romney made the point before introducing Romney on Saturday that her husband has won primaries in three important swing states in the general election: New Hampshire, Florida and Nevada.
And Mitt Romney himself gave a muscular speech directed at President Barack Obama.
“Nevada has had enough of your kind of help,” Romney said, referring to Obama.
In a preview of a potential general election match-up, Romney said the Obama economy was “tragic.”
“America needs a president who will fix the economy because he understands the economy and I do and I will,” Romney said. “This president began his presidency apologizing for America; he should be apologizing to America.”
Romney also further contrasted himself with Obama on how they viewed the role of government.
“We want to restore to America the founding principles that made this country great,” Romney said. “I will not just slow the growth of government, I will cut it. I will just freeze the government’s share of the total economy, I will freeze it. And without raising taxes, I will finally balance the budget.”
Romney also said “President Obama’s brand of capitalism sends your money to his friend’s companies” and said that people have come to America “not for a free ticket” but “for freedom” and that people have been attracted to America not “for the pursuit of government benefits” but for the pursuit of happiness.
Nevada was played on Romney’s home turf, especially because of the state’s Mormon population.
Republicans who wanted to participate in the caucus had to register a month ago, and this prevented new voters from caucusing, which froze the electorate and helped Romney.
Among Mormons, Romney dominated with 91 percent of the vote. Mormons constituted about 26 percent of the electorate even though they make up only 7 percent of the population in Nevada.
Exit polls showed that 27 percent of the caucus goers were Protestant, 26 percent were Mormon and 21 percent were Catholic.
Among the 23 percent who described themselves as “born again” Christian, Romney received 48 percent, 27 percent went for Gingrich, 15 percent went for Ron Paul and 11 percent went for Santorum.
Among Protestants, Gingrich received 33 percent, Romney received 42 percent, Paul received 17 percent, and Santorum received 8 percent.
Among Catholics, Romney received 53 percent, Gingrich 20 percent, Paul 18 percent, and Santorum 9 percent.
After Romney’s speech, Gingrich had a press conference and said his dropping out of the race was the Romney campaign’s “greatest fantasy.”
Gingrich has many favorable states coming up in March, such as Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama and Mississippi, and his best bet is to reset the race in March.
But for Gingrich to have his “March Madness,” he’ll have to survive and advance in February.