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Romney wins big in Nevada; Gingrich vows to fight on

Mitt Romney cruised to a comfortable win over his GOP rivals in the Nevada caucuses Saturday. Following strong recent debate performances and his big win in Florida, that gives him momentum going into the next presidential nominating contests.

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For now, at least, Romney must have a bifurcated campaign strategy aimed at deflecting two lines of attack.

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Gingrich and Rick Santorum are spending less time on Romney’s wealth and how he made it, instead emphasizing Romney’s time as the governor of Massachusetts. His record there, they say, was as a “moderate” (if not a “liberal”) on such issues as abortion and government-mandated healthcare.

As Romney gains strength and delegates in the primary-caucus, the Obama team is taking a different tack: Asserting that the wealthiest presidential candidate in US history earned his money largely by shutting down business and putting people out of work, that he’s out of touch with most Americans trying to make it through tough economic times. Comments such as “I like being able to fire people” and “I’m not concerned about the very poor” – even though they were taken out of context – are likely to be repeated over and over.

In his Saturday evening press conference, Gingrich went after the front-runner, labeling Romney a “Massachusetts moderate” who was “pro-abortion, pro-gun control, and pro-tax increase.”

“I will debate him one-on-one, any time, any place,” Gingrich said. Unfortunately for the former House Speaker, there are no televised debates for the next several weeks.

But, he said, “I expect this debate will continue for a long time. We will go on to Tampa [for the GOP convention]. I’m not going to withdraw; in fact I’m pretty happy with where we are.”

Romney now has won three out of five contests and two in a row. There are many more nominating contests, many more convention delegates to win.

But for now, at least, Romney has major momentum, which he hopes will power him on to this coming week’s contests in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri, then Maine, Arizona, Michigan, and Washington before “Super Tuesday” on March 6 when 10 states hold primaries and caucuses.

Gingrich said his goal was to "find a series of victories which by the end of the Texas primary will leave us at parity" with Romney by early April.

 In Nevada Saturday night, returns from 14 of 17 counties showed Romney with 42 percent support, Gingrich with 25 percent, Paul with 20 percent, and Santorum with 13 percent, according to the Associated Press.

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