So Romney has easily won Nevada, which virtually no one else was actively contesting, except for the presence of some Ron Paul staffers. With 78% reporting, Ron Paul is slightly ahead of McCain in state delegates, and they are both at 13%. Once again, Romney leads all other candidates among virtually all demographic groups. Granted, this was a caucus and necessarily had a make-up skewed towards activists and certain groups more than others. According to entrance polls, Mormons turned out at a disproportionately higher rate than almost any other group (7.5% of the population, but 27% of caucus-goers), and supported Romney almost unanimously (Ron Paul was in an extremely distant second among Mormons with 3%). Some find this troubling, but I can’t say that I do. It is perfectly appropriate if Mormons want to vote for a Mormon candidate based on nothing more than their shared religion (and it would be perfectly appropriate, if they were so inclined, for them to refuse to vote for a non-Mormon candidate on the same grounds). Presumably, these caucus-goers also liked what they heard from the candidate, but even if it were a purely identity-driven result I wouldn’t necessarily find it at all troubling. It may not be the best way to make a voting decision, and it may not result in the best choice, but it is a normal and inescapable part of democratic politics. (I could add that this is one of the reasons why a democratic system produces such poor government, but I think I’ve made that point already.)
It appears that Romney would have won handily had he received the same level of support from Mormons that he did among Protestants or Catholics (43 and 38% respectively). The strong Mormon backing turned a convincing win into a rout. Huckabee locked down his quota of about a fifth of evangelicals, but as usual has not expanded much beyond that. Ron Paul ran quite well among voters 18-59. It was the voters older than that who made up a plurality of the total who gave a boost to McCain. Interestingly, Romney led McCain among Latinos 41-25, which will become a bit of fodder for the immigration debate. Giuliani once again is bringing up the rear in sixth place with just 5%–this in a state where he was polling in double digits just a month ago.
On the Democratic side, it seems that my Obama pick doomed him to a second-place finish. Clinton has been projected as the winner, and Edwards suffered a humiliating blowout, which is all the more severe given his reputation of having supposedly strong union backing.
Update: Counting only pledged delegates, Clinton and Obama are tied. At this rate, unless Obama can win a lot more endorsements and gain many more superdelegates, he will lose the contest. Update: Apparently, the Democratic caucus in Nevada is even screwier than we thought. It seems that Obama may be awarded more delegates in the end because of
counties with odd numbers of delegates congressional districts that he won, which would give him a lead among pledged delegates, while Clinton continues to have a massive lead thanks to her superdelegates.
On the Republican side, there are not nearly so many unpledged delegates to obscure the results from actual voting. Romney has a significant lead in the pledged delegate count: 64 to Huckabee’s 21 and McCain’s 15. The problem is that Romney has gained a large part of this lead from winning two basically uncontested caucuses. Without the 26 he received from Wyoming and Nevada, his lead is nowhere near as impressive. It remains the case that he stands to come out of the four major January contests as of tonight with one victory despite extensive investment of time and money, and even that victory, as impressive as it undoubtedly was, was in his old home state. When he can organise large numbers of supporters, spend great sums to turn out his people and skew the results in his favour, as he has successfully done in two caucuses now, he wins. When he has to win voters in broader-based, less-controlled contests, he tends not to do very well. Is that really the candidate that Republicans want for a general election?