Mitt Romney won Republican presidential caucuses in Nevada on Saturday while John McCain and Mike Huckabee dueled in a hard-fought South Carolina primary, a campaign doubleheader likely to winnow the crowded field of White House rivals.
Democrats shared the stage in Nevada, where Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama vied for a caucus victory and the campaign
momentum that goes with it.
In a statement released while he flew to Florida, site of the Jan. 29 primary, Romney said Nevada Republicans had cast their votes for change. "With a career spent turning around businesses, creating jobs and imposing fiscal discipline, I am ready to get my hands on Washington and turn it inside out," it said.
Romney's western victory marked a second straight success for the former Massachusetts governor, coming quickly after a first-place finish in the Michigan primary revived a faltering campaign.
Nevada Republicans said the economy and illegal immigration were their top concerns, according to preliminary results from surveys of voters entering their caucuses. Romney led among voters who cited both issues.
Mormons gave Romney about half his votes. He is hoping to become
the first member of his faith to win the White House. Alone among the Republican contenders, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas aired television ads in Nevada.
The first scattered returns showed Romney with more than 50 percent of the vote. Paul, McCain and Huckabee were tightly bunched, far behind the leader.
Nevada offered more delegates - 31 versus 24 - but far less appeal to the Republican candidates than South Carolina, a primary that has gone to the party's eventual nominee every four years since 1980.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)