The results from Nevada’s caucus trickled in at a snail’s pace last night. In the end Mitt Romney won overwhelmingly, winning in virtually every segment of the electorate. In wildly contrasting speeches an energized Romney pumped up the crowd and went after the president; Newt Gingrich had what can only be described as a public meltdown.
Romney’s campaign sent out a reminder to the press emphasizing how overwhelming his victory was:
• Mitt Romney won among conservatives, Tea Party members, women, men, low income, high income, etc.
• Mitt Romney won a majority of “very conservative” voters (51percent). He defeated Newt Gingrich (40-31percent) among strong Tea Party voters. He won 48 percent of the vote among evangelicals (48–27 percent) over Newt Gingrich.
• Like Florida, Mitt Romney won handily among voters who said electability was the most important quality in a candidate.
• Like Florida, Mitt Romney won handily among voters who said the economy is the top issue.
• LDS voters make up 26 percent of the caucus votes. Even without the LDS votes, Mitt Romney still would have won decisively (by 17 points).
• While Mitt Romney won a majority of the LDS vote, he won among Protestants, Catholics and everybody else by wide margins.
Newt Gingrich appears to have edged out Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) for distant second place. Rick Santorum faded to single digits, his second poor showing in a row. But the results were only part of the story last night.
Romney delivered the best victory speech of the campaign. He was emotional and feisty. Totally ignoring his primary opponents he pivoted to the general election. He declared:
Three years ago, a newly elected President Obama told America that if Congress approved his plan to borrow nearly a trillion dollars, he would hold unemployment below 8 percent. It hasn’t been below 8 percent since.
This week he’s been trying to take a bow for 8.3 percent unemployment. Not so fast, Mr. President. This is the 36th straight month with unemployment above the red line your own administration drew. And if you take into account all the people who are struggling for work or who have just stopped looking, the real unemployment rate is over 15 percent.
Mr. President, America has also had enough of your kind of help!
He spiced up his speech with several zingers: “This President began his presidency by apologizing for America. He should now be apologizing to America.” And he bashed Obama for his decision to force Catholic health-care providers to dispense contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in contravention of their faith: “President Obama orders religious organizations to violate their conscience; I will defend religious liberty and overturn regulations that trample on our first freedom.” And he began to sketch out the difference between Obama’s vision and his own:
I will not attempt to bribe the voters with promises of new programs, new subsidies, and ever-increasing checks from government. If this election is a bidding war for who can promise the most benefits, then I’m not your president. You have that president today.
It happen in most every primary contest: As one candidate pulls away and racks up win after win he gains in confidence. Pretty soon he seems presidential, head and shoulders above his opponent. That happened for Romney last night.
He was greatly aided by a bizarre Gingrich press conference in which he displayed the true depth of his Romney-hatred, once again accusing Romney of lying in debates and whining that he had been forced to run negative ads. He charged Romney with leaking rumors that he would pull out of the race. He tried to minimize Romney’s victory as nothing more than a win in a Mormon state. (Gingrich of late seem inclined to play the religion card, another sign of his drought of decency.) He vowed to go on through the convention. He bizarrely said that Romney was backed by left-wing billionaire George Soros. (Ironically, word got out last night that Gingrich’s backer Sheldon Adelson stood at the ready to back Romney when Gingrich disappears.) He alternately appeared furious, vindictive and desperate. No serious voter would see that and conclude he is fit for the presidency.
So the primary moves on to Minnesota and Colorado caucuses on Tuesday. But the outcome, with each contest, seems more certain. Gingrich has imploded; Santorum hasn’t caught on; Romney plows on.