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Romney Wins Big in Nevada Caucuses; Gingrich Lashes Out, Vowing to Fight On

 
 
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This post was updated twice -- at 11:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, February 4, and at 10: 45 a.m. on Sunday. Note that percentages cited in this post are based on partial results, and may change slightly when the final tallies are reported.

As expected, Mitt Romney won Saturday's Nevada Republican presidential caucuses by a wide margin -- 47.6 percent of all the votes counted as of 10:30 a.m., EST, on Sunday, with 71 percent of the vote having been tabulated. The Nevada triumph marks the second straight victory for the former Massachusetts governor, who won Florida's primary earlier this week.

Although many expected him to be bested by Rep. Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won 22.7 percent, yielding him a distant second place, while Paul garnered 18.6 to come in a disappointing third in a state where his campaign was keenly focused.

The good news for Gingrich is that he was barely present in Nevada, where he ran a messy, disorganized campaign, yet managed to eek out the number two spot, anyway. The bad news for Gingrich is that one of the high-rollers he presumed to be betting on him -- casino magnate and professional jerk Donald Trump -- instead put his money on Romney, while the other -- superPAC sugar daddy Sheldon Adelson -- seems to be playing footsie with the Romney campaign. (Adeleson and his wife, Marian, have so far committed at total of $10 million to the pro-Gingrich superPAC, Winning Our Future, which purchased and distributed the anti-Romney videos, "King of Bain," and "Blood Money.")

At his caucus-night event, Gingrich vowed to fight on until the Republican National Convention, and continued to attack Romney as being "dishonest" and a faux conservative. According to the Washington Post's Amy Gardner, Gingrich also lashed out at the Republican leaders who appeared to have coordinated an effort to stop his campaign in Florida, saying, "the degree to which the establishment has closed ranks and made quite clear that they are desperate over the prospect of a Gingrich presidency."

For Romney, there's also a bit of high-roller bad news: it seems that the Trump endorsement adds up to a net negative for Romney, yielding a deleterious impact on his approval rating in a Politico/Facebook poll. 

Of course, there's no irony to be had in the contest for gambling money to woo the votes of the evangelical Christians who make up a hefty percentage of Republican primary voters. (Am I right, Ralph Reed?)

In Nevada, Romney had another advantage that may prove to be a detriment in the general election, should he be the G.O.P. presidential nominee: his Mormon faith. Even though Mormons make up only 9 percent of Nevada's 2.7 million citizens, they comprised more than a quarter of Saturday's caucus goers, according to exit polls, and more than 90 percent of that vote went for Romney. Evangelical Christians accounted for nearly the same percentage -- 23 percent, according to entrance polls -- but only 46 percent of those voters broke for Romney. Ron Paul cleaned up among the religiously unaffiliated and atheists -- winning 55 percent of their votes -- but only 9 percent of caucus-goers identified as such.

Although his campaign was far better organized than Gingrich's, Ron Paul managed to win only 18 percent of the vote as of midnight EST. Nonetheless, it's still something of a win in the game he's playing, which is not for the nomination, but for picking up enough delegates to be a pain in the ass to the Republican Party come convention time. Nevada's contest is not a winner-take-all affair, meaning convention delegates will be apportioned to the individual candidates according to the final vote tallies.

Meanwhile, Paul is making nice to Romney, who is the only candidate who has not come under attack by the Texas congressman. Some suspect an alliance. Romney gets to keep his nice-guy image while Paul undermines the other contenders, especially Gingrich, who is the only real threat to the Romney inevitability narrative. (Paul has run some brutal ads against the former speaker.)

Romney's Nevada victory speech was basically a re-run of his Florida valedictory, in which he picked up some of themes trumpeted by his rivals -- notably Gingrich's assertion of a violation of religious freedom by the Obama administration for its requirement that certain institutions run by religious denominations, such as hospitals and universities, provide contraception coverage in the health-care benefits they offer to employees. Romney has also appropriated a major, Tea Party-friendly theme of Ron Paul's concerning the nation's founding document. "The Constitution will be our blueprint," Romney said. He did not elaborate on what exactly he meant by that.

In other Ron Paul news, the candidate, who, like the other G.O.P. presidential contenders adheres to a "no exceptions" anti-abortion policy, allowed, during an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, that a woman who came into an emergency room immediately after "an honest rape" should be allowed "a shot of estrogen," which would presumably prevent a pregnancy from occurring. He did not elaborate on what exactly would constitute a "dishonest rape." (H/t, GottaLaff at The Political Carnival.)

Moving on from Nevada, the G.O.P. contenders will compete on Tuesday in caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, as well as what is being called a "beauty contest" primary in Missouri -- so called because the Missouri Republican Party does not go by primary results to award its convention delegates. The Maine caucuses take place on February 11.

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Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington correspondent. She also writes for the AFL-CIO Now blog. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/addiestan

AlterNet / By Adele M. Stan

Posted at February 4, 2012, 4:27pm