Clinton projected to win Nevada Democratic caucuses
(CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton will win the Nevada
Democratic caucuses, CNN projects.
The New York senator led rival Barack Obama by 8
percentage points with about half of the precincts
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was a distant
On the Republican side, CNN projects Mitt Romney as
the winner of Saturday's GOP caucuses in Nevada, based
on entrance polls and early returns.
Romney was cruising with 55 percent of the vote in
early returns, but a dogfight was on for second place.
Romney issued a statement Saturday afternoon.
"Today, the people of Nevada voted for change in
Washington. 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," the statement said.
Sen. John McCain and Rep. Ron Paul were in a close
race for second place, ahead of former Arkansas Gov.
Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Fred Thompson.
Also on Saturday, Republicans were voting in a primary
election in South Carolina, where results were
expected to come in later. Video Watch how candidates
are competing in South Carolina »
The two contests could propel two candidates to
front-runner status and winnow the field in this
year's wide-open presidential races. Photo See scenes
from Saturday's races »
McCain was seeking to extend polling hours in South
Carolina after learning voting machines in the eastern
part of the state were malfunctioning, according to a
lawyer for his campaign.
"Human error" was to blame for putting voting machines
offline in 80 percent of Horry County's precincts,
county spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said.
By 4 p.m. ET, only about four of the county's 118
precincts were without a working machine, she said.
Economic issues were foremost in the minds of Nevada
GOP voters, and that worked in favor of Romney, who
has earned a reputation as a successful businessman.
In a CNN entrance poll Saturday morning, 38 percent of
Nevada caucus participants cited the economy as their
most important issue.
Of those, 47 percent said they were caucusing for
Romney, and 26 percent favored Paul.
The second most important issue for Nevada Republicans
was illegal immigration, at 34 percent.
Nevada marks the second straight win for the former
Massachusetts governor, following a win in the
Michigan primary earlier in the week.
Even though the Republican Party cut in half the
number of delegates the state party can send to the
national convention as punishment for moving its
caucuses to Saturday, Nevada has more delegates at
stake than South Carolina.
In a presidential race that's increasingly coming down
to who has the most delegates, a win helps Romney.
Romney also benefited from his Mormon religion, the
poll results show. Romney captured 94 percent of the
voters who identified themselves as Mormon, which made
up 25 percent of all Republicans participating in the
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
estimates there are 170,000 members living in Nevada.
A win in the South Carolina Republican primary could
give one of the candidates a foot up in a race that,
so far, has produced three different winners in three
"South Carolina is the state where the Republican base
passes judgment on the candidates," CNN senior
political analyst Bill Schneider said. "If
conservatives are going to rally behind any single
contender, we'll see that happen in South Carolina."
The weather could become a significant factor in the
race. Cold rain was falling across the state, and snow
was reported in spots.
Snow is rare in South Carolina and brings the state to
a standstill when it falls, even in small amounts.
The latest polling in South Carolina had Huckabee as
the front-runner. An American Research Group poll
conducted January 17-18 had Huckabee leading at 33
percent, followed by Sen. John McCain at 26 percent.
Thompson was at 21 percent and the poll found and
Romney was running fourth at 9 percent. All other
candidates were in single digits. The poll's margin of
error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
No GOP candidate has gone on to win his party's
nomination without winning South Carolina since Ronald
Reagan won there in 1980, but, with the race so
volatile, that may not hold true this year.
"Right now, conservatives are split. Economic
conservatives like Mitt Romney, social conservatives
like Huckabee, and military conservatives like John
McCain," Schneider said. "They could end up just as
divided after the South Carolina vote.