Romney Wins in Nevada
Posted at 2:34 PM ET, 01/19/2008
Romney Wins in Nevada
By Chris Cillizza
washingtonpost.com staff writer
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won the
Nevada Republican caucuses today, while Sen. John
McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Arkansas governor Mike
Huckabee were battling for a first-place finish in
With the presidential campaign still wide open in both
parties, the focus shifted today to the South and
West, where Republican and Democratic candidates are
urgently seeking wins in a caucus and primary contest
to give their campaigns a boost.
"Today, the people of Nevada voted for change in
Washington," Romney said following his victory. "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
With 29 of 1,789 precincts reporting, Romney had 46
percent of the vote to 15 percent for Sen. McCain and
14 percent for Rep. Ron Paul (Texas). Despite the
paucity of actual results, the race had been called
for Romney by the Associated Press and several
The caucuses are the first step in a multi-step
process to elect delegates to the national conventions
this summer. Romney was the only top-tier Republican
candidates to campaign this week in Nevada. Paul, the
champion of libertarians, was the only GOP candidate
to air television ads in Nevada, according to the AP.
Romney's Mormon faith, a point of concern for some
evangelical voters, was a boon for him in Nevada,
according to a preliminary entrance poll reported by
MSNBC. Roughly one-quarter of the Republican caucus
electorate was Mormon, and Romney won better than 90
percent of those voters.
Romney's win comes on the heels of his strong showing
in Michigan on Tuesday and an earlier victory in
Wyoming. Romney's early victory in Nevada takes some
of the pressure off of him later today in South
Carolina, which looks to be a two-man race between
McCain and Huckabee. The South Carolina Democratic
contest will be held a week from now.
Even as Romney's victory was being confirmed, Sens.
Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama were
locked in a close contest on the Democratic side of
the Nevada caucuses. Polling done in the last few days
in Nevada seemed to suggest that Clinton was the
favorite, but Obama has the backing of the powerful
Culinary Workers Union Local 226. That endorsement
provided Obama with an organizational boost and strong
turnout at nine caucus sites located in Las Vegas
Although four states have already held high-profile
primaries and caucuses, uncertainty still reigns over
who the party nominees will be. The more ballots that
are cast, the more muddied the picture appears to be.
After the lead-off Iowa caucuses, it looked as if
voters were ready for new blood, as fresh faces --
Democrat Obama and Republican Huckabee -- claimed
wider-than-expected wins. But then came New Hampshire
and a vote for old favorites -- Clinton and McCain.
Just when he looked like his high priced campaign was
about to implode, Romney scored an impressive victory
in Michigan earlier this week, followed by his
apparent first-place showing in Nevada today. Michigan
did nothing to clarify matters on the Democratic side,
as sanctions by the Democratic National Committee
rendered the state's primary virtually meaningless.
The key thing to remember at this point is that the
nomination fights have both turned into a battle for
No single state's vote is going to end the race or
give any candidate all that much momentum. The contest
will likely extend until at least Feb. 5, when 22
states vote and a huge chunk of both parties'
delegates are at stake.
In the Democratic race, a candidate needs 2,025
delegates to secure the nomination, and right now
Clinton has 187, Obama 89 and Edwards 50, according to
the Associated Press. On the Republican side, a
candidates will need 1,191 delegates to lock up the
nomination, and currently Romney leads with 42
delegates, to 32 for Huckabee and 13 for McCain.
While his GOP rivals hunted for votes in South
Carolina yesterday, Romney campaigned across Nevada,
seeking another win that would provide momentum before
Florida's primary at the end of the month. Romney
reprised the same economic and "Washington is broken"
themes in Nevada that he used to extract his must-have
victory in Michigan. Sensing another victory in
Nevada, Romney pulled out of South Carolina earlier
this week, ceding that state to McCain, Huckabee and
former senator Fred Thompson, who is looking for his
first strong showing.
McCain and Huckabee both stressed their experience in
dealing with budget and economic problems as they
campaigned across South Carolina. McCain called for
more spending cuts and expressed some reservations
about President Bush's proposal for an economic
stimulus package, while Huckabee said he thought Bush
was on the right track with his plan to offset the
Clinton, too, is focusing on the country's economic
and housing woes, as she and Obama intensify their
critiques of one another. Clinton told a group of
workers at a small printing business in Las Vegas
yesterday that Bush's economic stimulus plan doesn't
do enough, while Obama said the plan came too late and
leaves out tens of millions of workers and senior
citizens. He also criticized Clinton, charging that
her own stimulus proposals have changed in recent
"This is a larger point," he told a group in Reno.
"The American people don't want a president whose
policies change with the moment."
On the Republican side, McCain has to be considered
the favorite in South Carolina, and if he wins there
he should make a strong showing in Florida on Jan. 29.
It's not clear whether McCain has the resources to
compete in the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday states --
especially if he wins neither South Carolina nor
Florida. He's clearly a weaker front-runner than he
was even a week ago but he remains the slight
Today's results in South Carolina will go a long way
toward answering the question of whether Huckabee is a
one-state sensation or a legitimate contender for the
Republican nomination. The new MSNBC/McClatchy poll
suggests it is a two-way race in the Palmetto State
between Huckabee and McCain. The former Arkansas
governor's problem is that he is competing for
socially conservative voters with Thompson and Romney,
while McCain is generally unrivaled as he seeks to
rally fiscal conservatives and moderates.
On the Democratic side, Clinton and Obama dominate the
field, with former senator John Edwards of North
Carolina a distant third. Winning New Hampshire might
have locked up the primary nomination for Obama, but
losing there hasn't damaged the Illinois senator the
way some predicted it might. Over the past ten days,
Obama has racked up a number of high-profile
endorsements from Sens. John Kerry (Mass.) and Patrick
Leahy (Vt.) as well as Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.
With the race certain now to extend to Feb. 5, it is
Obama who starts with the early lead --
organizationally -- over Clinton in many of these
states. And, with several southern states with large
black populations -- Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee --
and Obama's home state of Illinois voting that day,
he'll likely have a solid delegate foundation no
matter his ups and down between now and then.
While the Clinton campaign notes that the race is now
a delegate fight rather than a series of single-state
contests, a win in Nevada would be a nice insurance
policy against Obama's expected triumph in South
Carolina one week later. Even if she loses both
states, Clinton, like Obama, enters Feb. 5 in
relatively strong shape with New York, Arkansas, New
Jersey and Connecticut all looking strong for her.
Clinton also went on-air in California late Thursday,
a sign that she