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Romney Wins in Nevada

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://blog.washingtonpost.com/livecoverage/?referrer=email Posted at 2:34 PM ET, 01/19/2008 Romney Wins in Nevada By Chris Cillizza washingtonpost.com staff
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 19, 2008
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      http://blog.washingtonpost.com/livecoverage/?referrer=email

      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
      South Carolina.

      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
      are waiting."

      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
      television networks.

      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
      casinos.

      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
      delegates.

      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
      declining economy.

      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
      days.

      "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
      front-runner nonetheless.

      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
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