Romney Hoping for Repeat Performance in Nevada
In a state where so many fortunes have changed on a roll of the dice, Mitt Romney is hoping for no surprises in Nevada, where Republicans began voting at caucuses Saturday morning in the first nominating contest in the West.
Four years ago, Mr. Romney blew out the Republican competition here, surprising analysts by winning the caucuses with just over half the votes, bolstered by overwhelming support from Mormons. This time he is counting on a similarly strong Mormon vote, but also on his campaign’s powerful “ground game,” which, along with a barrage of advertising, helped propel him to victory in Florida on Tuesday.
The complete results from Saturday’s caucuses were not expected until late in the night.
But at Valley High School in Las Vegas, Mr. Romney appeared to have a lot of support among the more than 200 caucus-goers who packed the school parking lot. “Mitt Romney is the only one who can beat Obama,” said Leon Carson, a 58-year-old Vietnam veteran, who said he could not vote for Newt Gingrich. “He lied to Congress, he lied to his wives, and he lied to God. That’s three times — you’re out!”
The “electability” argument — that Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is the candidate most capable of defeating President Obama — seemed to explain much of his backing, interviews here suggested. “He’s a good man, he’s got experience in the private sector, and I think he can beat Obama, who definitely should be replaced,” said Myra Martindale, another caucus-goer here.
In the upscale Las Vegas neighborhood of Summerlin, Mr. Romney had a lopsided victory at one caucus site. Of the 22 people who voted in Palo Verde High School, Mr. Romney got 19 votes, Representative Ron Paul got 2 and Mr. Gingrich got 1.
For the other candidates, there are reasons this race could be more unpredictable than last time: The Tea Party, hardly a factor four years ago, is now a force here; Mr. Paul’s backers have gone from fighting the Nevada Republican Party from the outside to taking over a number of key party slots at the state and county level; and Nevada’s economy has been hit as hard as anywhere in the country, stirring calls from many Republicans for a total overhaul of Washington.
The Nevada contest posed a test of Mr. Paul’s delegate strategy, in which he has vowed to stay in the race through the summer and collect delegates in states like Nevada, where the electoral rules favor him and he is thought to enjoy wider appeal. If he can do well here, and in the next few caucus states, it may show establishment Republicans that his movement is a force to be reckoned with and bolster his efforts to change the party’s platform and positions.