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Mitt Romney favored in Nevada caucuses: Three big reasons why

Mitt Romney has three big things going for him in Saturday’s presidential nominating caucuses in Nevada: Momentum from Florida, a splintered tea party, and many fellow Mormons backing him.

By Staff writer / February 4, 2012

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney greets Cynthia Potts at a campaign rally in Elko, Nevada on Friday, February 3, 2012. Nevada holds its presidential nominating caucuses Saturday. Romney is leading in the polls.

Brian Snyder/Reuters

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Mitt Romney has three big things going for him in today’s Republican caucuses in Nevada: Momentum (and fund-raising chops) from his big win in Florida’s primary election Tuesday. A fractured and therefore ineffectual tea party movement. And a lot of Mormon coreligionists.

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At this point in the campaign, with former tea party favorites Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain having dropped out, the conservative political insurgency might have been expected to coalesce around Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum as their anybody-but-Romney choice. (But not, most likely, Ron Paul because of what many perceive as his isolationist stand on national security, particularly regarding Israel.)

But tea party leaders are the first to admit that any unified effort was and is unlikely.

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“There’s so much infighting,” Reno-area tea party organizer Richard Disney told the Las Vegas Sun. “Santorum has a lot behind him, but he’s not going to win; everybody knows that. Gingrich has some behind him, but so many people in the tea party detest Gingrich. Half hate him and half say he’s more conservative than Romney so they’ll support him.”

“The Republican establishment are doing their best to dismantle the tea party,” Disney added, “and they’re doing a good job, frankly.”

But the “Republican establishment” – i.e., Romney backers – can’t be blamed (or credited) with tea party failures. Two years ago, the movement split among several potential Republican candidates to challenge Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who clearly was vulnerable as a symbol for everything the tea party fought against. Sharron Angle won the nod, but lost to Reid in a race often focusing on her controversial assertions and general campaign strangeness.

A Las Vegas Review-Journal poll this week shows Romney may be chipping away at the tea party.

Gingrich bests Romney 37-27 among those who say they “strongly support” the tea party movement, but Romney is favored by more than half of those who support the tea party “somewhat.” Romney beats Gingrich by 20 points (45-25) among all likely caucus participants. 

"I think Romney is getting some traction there finally with the tea party," Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the Cook Political Report, told the Review-Journal. "It's the electability argument. We saw the same thing in Florida. Now we're going to be looking for whether or not he is starting to solidify the conservative base."

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