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May 25, 2018

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45,000 turnout looks good to GOP, Romney

Paul supporters flood caucus sites, come up short


Steve Marcus

Josh Romney, a son of Mitt Romney, speaks to reporters during the Republican presidential caucus at Green Valley High School in Henderson on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2008. The caucus process bewildered many voters.

Republicans Reward Romney

There were a few surprises on the Republican side of Nevada's caucuses on Jan. 19, but Mitt Romney wasn't one of them. The former Massachusetts governor — who had done extensive campaigning in Nevada, and had extremely strong support from his Mormon ties in Utah — won just as easily as he was expected to. But things spiced up slightly for second place when Ron Paul edged out John McCain.

A Day to Caucus

A sign hangs on the outside door of Culinary Union Local 226 political director Pilar Weiss after a caucus day rally and informational meeting at the Culinary Union Local 226 headquarters in Las Vegas early in the morning Saturday, January 19, 2008. Launch slideshow »

Caucus Results by County

See how Hillary won the Silver State

Voter Breakdown & Contributions

See the interactive graphic »

Perhaps the only guessing game going into the Republican Party’s caucus Saturday was how many party faithful would participate. The answer pleased party officials.

“You have essentially 45,000 people who showed up for a caucus that’s never been held this early, and a big percentage hadn’t taken part in a party event before. That’s remarkable,” said Steve Wark, communications director for the Republican caucus. “People entered the party process.”

The campaigning absence of other Republican front-runners propelled former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to a huge victory Saturday, while upstart libertarian Ron Paul, who campaigned extensively here, appeared to have nabbed second.

Romney, pledging to push a new economic stimulus package and enjoying the support of the state’s Mormons, got 51 percent of the Republican Party’s delegates to Paul’s 14 percent.

Paul, a congressman from Texas, won one county: Nye.

His volunteers had hoped he would do better, flooding caucus sites Saturday for last-minute campaigning. They didn’t have to win over Henderson resident David Donovan, 52, who registered as a Republican just to vote for Paul.

“I think Ron Paul’s the only one concerned about America,” Donovan said.

A silver in a statewide contest would be Paul’s best showing yet in the nominating process — and a testament to a strong ground campaign led by purposed, if not rabid, volunteers intent on proving his candidacy was not just an Internet phenomenon.

“I was in tears earlier, because I know all those people we won over (John) McCain we brought in by hand and by our hard work,” said Josh Greenspan, Paul’s southwest coordinator.

Erik Herzik, a political science professor at UNR, cautioned that Paul’s percentage of the vote wasn’t terribly impressive.

“His percentage is only marginally better than he’s getting elsewhere,” Herzik said.

Romney’s campaign, on the other hand, was heartened by the Nevada victory.

“It shows we’re doing well in battleground states. That’s a good sign,” Romney’s son Josh said while his father was flying to Florida on Saturday morning.

Mitt Romney also has won the Michigan primary and the Wyoming caucus, but lost the more important contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. McCain won South Carolina’s primary Saturday.

“Republicans clearly were impressed by Romney: He was here, he was available and he answered questions,” Herzik said. “Romney was one of the few candidates who was viewed positively by most: They like his experience in the private sector and he’s a good family man.”

Party insiders said Romney’s presence here in recent days was a tacit concession of the South Carolina primary — a far more important contest. South Carolina traditionally holds an early contest, and every Republican nominee over the past quarter-century has won there.

Josh Romney, who acknowledged his father didn’t expect to win South Carolina, downplayed the significance of that contest, noting that most recent trends — including nominees generally being decided by the New Hampshire primary — have been nullified in this particular nominating process.

At caucus sites Saturday, voters complained they didn’t understand the caucus process. Some didn’t know which caucus site — or precinct room — to go to. Confusion abounded.

“I have never been a part of anything so ridiculous in my life,” said Anne Fawley, 54, of Henderson. “It’s not representative of the democratic process. I hope we never do that again.”

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