As the hoopla of the Super Bowl dies down an important Caucus was held in NV. No surprises occurred as Mitt Romney won with a solid majority of the vote. Below are 5 takeaways from the Caucus and what they could portend for the GOP nomination.
1. Romney won conservatives: For the first time in any of the five GOP nominating contests not only did Romney win conservatives he won “very conservative voters.” In IA, NH, SC, and FL, he never won more than 30% of these self-described voters. In Nevada he won a whopping 46% of them to Gingrich’s 25%. In an electorate that identified as 49% very conservative Romney needed their votes and he finally got them. This could signify conservatives are finally warming to his candidacy. NV had favorable demographics to Romney and many Mormons identify as “very conservative.” They went or Romney by a 90% margin. Very conservative voters may be different in MN, CO, AZ and MI, but there is no denying that Romney finally broke much-needed ground in the state among a core general election GOP group.
2. Romney’s momentum continues: Coming off a significant victory in Florida Romney’s momentum continues to roll after NV. Among all major demographics, age groups, education and income levels (except those earning $30,000 or below) Romney dominated the field. This will further solidify his status as frontrunner and make it that much more of a challenge for his opponents to knock him out later in the campaign. With favorable Caucuses in MN and CO coming up next week Romney can further dominate the delegate count. And of course continue his momentum into the MI and AZ primaries on February 28th and Super Tuesday (March 6th).
3. Romney finally won a majority of the vote: For the first time in any of the first GOP nominating contests Romney won not with a plurality of the vote. He won with a majority. For Romney’s campaign and the media reporting that is sure to follow this is a major milestone. Romney’s problem has always been two-fold. Until NV he struggled to win conservatives. And again, until NV he also had never won a nominating contest with 50%+1. Now Romney has finally been able to do so and not a moment to soon. With Romney’s victory in Florida many GOP insiders and the media have been crowning him the nominee. And that means Romney needs to start winning a majority of the votes in the remaining nominating contests. Well, if NV is any example he will win quite a few more states with a majority.
4. Romney did well among Catholics and evangelicals: Buried in the wealth of exit poll data is an interesting tidbit. Not only did Romney do well among voters who identified as “Mormon, other Christian, or none” he dominated Catholics and won Protestants. Romney won 48% of the Catholic vote and a narrow 37% plurality of the Protestant vote. Among the 24% of voters who identified as white evangelicals Romney won a strong 43% plurality. For the first time Romney won evangelicals. This suggests Romney may play better in the South than many analysts predict.
5. Mormons played critical role in Romney’s victory: Of the 25% of voters who identified as Mormon 88% of them backed Mitt Romney. That is not surprising. Nor his the fact they compromised a larger share of the electorate than born-again Christians. The size of Romney’s victory among this group suggests that in neighboring states like CO, AZ, and ID they will play a critical role in helping Romney wrap up the nomination. Mormons main electoral strength lies in the West and if they continue to stick with Romney it is hard to see him not winning multiple states in the region.
Caveat: When all the votes are counted Romney might come short of a majority of the vote. As I write this Romney has 48% of the vote with 71% of precincts counted. I anticipate his vote total to climb as many Clark County precints (likely to favor Romney) have yet to be counted.