GOP voters in Nevada congregated around the state on Saturday to caucus and play their part in deciding the Republican presidential primary.
As expected, Mitt Romney ran away with the contest, leading throughout the day and eventually winning by more than 10 points. The real competition played out between Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, who jockeyed for the runner-up spot hoping to come away with much-needed delegates. Nevada allocates its 28 delegates proportionally, meaning that Romney extended his lead over the rest of the pack, while Gingrich and Paul also made modest pick-ups.
The caucusing process didn't go over as smoothly as state GOP officials might have hoped, as caucus-goers at some precincts were turned away after showing up late due to confusion about the schedule. This doesn't reflect well on the Nevada GOP, especially considering ongoing calls for the to return to a primary system like it used before a switch in the 2000 election. In primaries, voters cast ballots without the preliminary discussion period used in caucuses.
Despite some hiccups, many of Nevada's 500,000-plus registered Republicans showed up to vote, around 25 percent of them Mormons who overwhelmingly supported Romney -- who is also Mormon -- over his rivals.
All of this took place in a state that leads the nation in unemployment, foreclosure filings and homes with underwater mortgages. While candidates campaigned on their typical pro-jobs platforms, they managed to largely skip over the housing crisis all together.
Below is a list of winners and losers from the Nevada caucuses. Make your pick for the biggest in each category.
Romney blew out the competition on Saturday, cementing his status as primary frontrunner and building on his delegate lead. His win will likely propel him into other February primary contests -- in states such Colorado, Minnesota and his home-state of Michigan -- where he's also expected to put on a strong showing. Apart from just winning, Romney also managed to perform strongly among Tea Party supporters and more-conservative voters, something that he has had trouble doing in previous states.
Not everyone was happy with the way the caucuses played out across the state on Saturday. Confusing notices on scheduling and placement of the meetings reportedly led to some voters being locked out and disenfranchised. Others who got in were still confused about how to go about the process. On top of the issues with the electoral system, GOP candidates themselves managed to neglect the broader state of Nevada on some key issues while traversing the campaign trail. The state leads the nation in unemployment and was among the hardest hit by the housing crisis. Despite this, the four candidates managed to avoid serious discussion of solutions to the foreclosure epidemic and reasons for rampant unemployment in the state in particular.
Mormon voters made their voices heard loud and clear on Saturday, helping propel Mitt Romney, a Mormon himself, to a huge victory in the Silver State. Around a quarter of all voters were members of the Mormon Church, and over 90 percent of them cast ballots for Romney.
Failed U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle threw her support behind Rick Santorum in the week before the Nevada caucuses, calling him a "strong fiscal and social conservative who stands on principles above politics." Her endorsement carried little weight, however, as Santorum finished last, far behind the other three candidates. Despite the failure to produce both now and in 2010, Angle isn't ready to rule out a return to electoral politics.
The problems with the caucus system played out as some still remain unconvinced that the caucus system, implemented in the 2000 election, functions better than the previous primary system. Under the primary system, voters would cast votes without the preliminary discussions and pitches from supporters that take place during caucuses.
In typical Trump fashion, the reality TV star made a huge scene with his endorsement. On the day before his announcement, it was reported that he'd back Gingrich, but on the morning of the event, the story was thrown for a loop when he declared he would support Romney. Despite the dramatics, a subsequent Facebook/Politico poll found that the endorsement helped Romney very little, and perhaps even hurt him with voters in Nevada. From Politico: Forty-one percent of those surveyed said Trump's endorsement gave them a more negative view of Romney, compared with just 10 percent who said they now view him more positively. Forty-nine percent said the endorsement had no effect. The results only represent the sentiments of Nevada users on Facebook, not registered voters or likely GOP caucus voters that tend to be more reliable barometers of caucus elections. The Facebook poll, for instance, doesn't exclude Democrats or independents.