Romney rolls to victory in Nevada caucuses

Posted Saturday, Feb. 04, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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LAS VEGAS -- Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney cruised to victory in the Nevada caucuses Saturday night, notching a second consecutive triumph over a field of rivals suddenly struggling to keep pace.

A triumphant Romney told supporters that the Nevada victory will help him as he spreads the message that voters have had enough of the kind of help that President Barack Obama has delivered to America. He all but ignored his Republican rivals as he vowed to repeal Obama's economic and healthcare policies.

The former Massachusetts governor said Obama's policies have "made these tough times last longer."

Romney held a double-digit lead over his nearest pursuer as the totals mounted in a state where fellow Mormons accounted for roughly a quarter of all caucusgoers.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Lake Jackson vied for a distant second. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum trailed the field.

Returns from 14 of 17 counties showed Romney with 42 percent support, Gingrich with 25 percent, Paul with 20 percent and Santorum with 13 percent.

Yet to report its results late Saturday was Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and often accounts for half or more of the votes in a statewide election.

Romney's victory capped a week that began with his double-digit win in the Florida primary. That contest was as intense as Nevada's caucuses were sedate -- so quiet that they produced little television advertising, no candidate debates and only a modest investment of time by the contenders.

The results also raised new questions about Gingrich's chances of catching Romney, but Gingrich said late Saturday that he has no intentions of withdrawing and will continue through the party's national convention in August. Gingrich challenged Romney to one-on-one debates.

A total of 28 Republican National Convention delegates were at stake in caucuses held across a sprawling state that figures to be a fierce battleground in the fall between the winner of the GOP nomination and Obama.

The state's unemployment rate was measured at 12.6 percent in December, the worst of any state in the country.

According to the AP count, Romney began the day with 87 of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination. Gingrich had 26, Santorum 14 and Paul 4.

Preliminary results of a poll of Nevada Republicans entering their caucuses showed that nearly half said the most important consideration in their decision was a candidate's ability to defeat Obama this fall, a finding in line with other states.

About one-quarter of those surveyed said they are Mormon, roughly the same as in 2008, when Romney won with more than a majority of the vote in a multicandidate field.

The entrance poll was conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press at 25 randomly selected caucus sites. It included 1,553 interviews and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The caucus rules were a demonstration of democracy and a reflection of religious diversity.

Nevada awarded its delegates in proportion to the caucus vote totals, meaning that any candidate who captured at least 3.57 percent of the total number of ballots cast would be rewarded. By contrast, Romney's victory in the Florida primary on Tuesday netted him all 50 of the delegates at stake there.

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