- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 5, 2012

LAS VEGAS — Mitt Romney’s victory in Nevada’s Republican presidential caucuses Saturday set him up for a delegate-rich run through February, but did nothing to whittle down the field of four who say there’s plenty of time to catch up.

More than 24 hours after most of the voting was completed, Nevada’s GOP had yet to announce final numbers — underscoring a process that frustrated voters called chaotic. But with 70 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Romney had 48 percent of the vote — trailed by Newt Gingrich with 23 percent, Rep. Ron Paul with 19 percent and Rick Santorum with 11 percent.

Mr. Santorum and Mr. Paul are eyeing Tuesday’s caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and a nonbinding primary in Missouri, while Mr. Gingrich is talking about Texas’ primary on April 3 as his campaign yardstick.

“Now we’re getting to the states where people don’t have the natural advantage, don’t have the time commitment, the staff commitment to really build out an organization like they did in these first five,” Mr. Santorum told “Fox News Sunday.”

In a post-caucus news conference Saturday night, Mr. Gingrich was even more emphatic. Despite Mr. Romney’s victory, he said, his campaign’s performance over the past couple of weeks has strengthened arguments for staying in the race.

Mr. Gingrich pointed to record turnouts in South Carolina, which he won, and compared it with the drop in turnout in Florida, which Mr. Romney won.

He also leveled bruising allegations at Mr. Romney, saying he has run a campaign so “ruthless” and with such a “level of dishonesty” that it knocked Mr. Gingrich off his game. But he said he will be prepared to push back the next time — though he told reporters that they will have to just wait to see how.

“If you can’t tell the truth as a candidate for president, how can the country possibly expect you to lead?” Mr. Gingrich said.

He said he expects to do well in the March contests, which include a number of Southern states, and said he expects to be competitive with Mr. Romney in the delegate count after Texas’ primary in early April.

Final four move on

The field has had four major candidates since the run-up to South Carolina, which eliminated former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Texas Gov. Rick Perry from the race. Rep. Michelle Bachmann dropped out after the Iowa caucuses.

All four men remaining said they are determined to battle on.

Mr. Paul dismissed worries of some Republican strategists that the level of enmity among the candidates could hurt the eventual nominee.

“I don’t worry about that,” he told ABC’s “This Week” program. “I worry about myself. I worry about the message. I worry about the country. I worry about the wars going on.”

Mr. Paul said he doesn’t see much difference among Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum on issues such as military commitments overseas or domestic spending, and that he plans to stay in the race to give voters a chance to show their approval of his message.

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