Posted: January 19, 2008 5:11 PM
Backed by Mormon Support, Romney Cruises to Nevada Win
Following up on his win in Michigan and backed by a sizeable Mormon population in Nevada, former Gov. Mitt Romney notched another victory in the Silver State caucuses Saturday, adding to his growing pile of delegates in the changing Republican race for the party’s presidential nomination.
The victory was widely expected and the Associated Press moved quickly to declare Romney the victor even before the first precincts reported. Long-shot Libertarian candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was the only other GOP candidate to mount a serious effort in the state.
Romney, according to projections, would capture the bulk of the state’s 34 delegates to the GOP convention.
He welcomed the results, saying the Republicans of Nevada would help him, “to get my hands on Washington and turn it inside out.”
“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,” Romney said in a statement. “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.”
Romney found out that he had won in Nevada while flying to Florida, a state with a critical contest on Jan. 29.
Once on the ground, Romney spoke to reporters, saying, “What you see in Nevada, Michigan, Iowa, Wyoming, New Hampshire, is that people are very concerned about what is happening globally but they’re also concerned about what’s happening here at home.”
“There’s a lot of work to be done, and out campaign is focused on bringing change to Washington,” Romney told reporters in Jacksonville, Fla., adding that he would work to “solve the problem of runaway spending, becoming energy independent, achieving high ethical standards.”
As the Republican campaigns continue with different candidates scoring victories in different state contests, some analysts have started to say the campaigns should start focusing on the math of the delegate count — a fact Romney was quick to point out even ahead of Saturday’s vote.
“There are 24 delegates in South Carolina, and there are 34 delegates in Nevada,” Romney told reporters Thursday. “I want delegates, and I’m pleased that I’ve been able to get delegates. The fact that I came in second in a couple of primaries — I know some people think that’s a devastating thing — actually, I got delegates. And I’m looking to rack up the delegates I need to win the nomination.”
As he crisscrossed Nevada in a final campaign push on Friday, Romney stressed his campaign theme of traditional politics failing to help ordinary voters.
“As you think about the promises made and compare them with the promises delivered, you realize that Washington is broken. And I’m going to Washington to finally bring change and get the job done,” Romney told about 200 people in snow-covered Elko, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Turnout, which had been doubted during the chaotic days ahead of the vote, appeared to be heavy and forced a 45-minute delay at some sites, according to the GOP officials.
“I can’t believe how many showed up,” Marilyn Brainard told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
One of the cornerstones of Romney’s Nevada victory appeared to be Mormons, who went nearly 90 percent for the former Massachusetts governor.
“They are very powerful here,” David F. Damore, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told The New York Times. “Normally you see this antagonism between the Christian right and Mormons. You don’t see that here.”
Mormons, according to projections, made up nearly 20 percent of the voters in Saturday’s contests.
Romney, while welcoming the support of fellow Mormons, added an internal projection had found that, “if no members of my faith had turned out to vote, I still would have won in Nevada.”
But beyond their faith, Nevada voters cited the economy and illegal immigration as the overwhelming issues behind their voting. The issues largely paralleled what NewsHour reporters found during a week-long series of reports from Las Vegas in November.