Mitt Romney has won Nevada's Republican caucuses. Second place is too close to call between Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. Rick Santorum will finish in fourth place.
Speaking at his victory party at the Red Rocks Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Romney did not mention any of his Republican opponents by name, keeping his remarks focused on President Barack Obama. Romney repeated his vow to repeal the federal health care law, increase job growth and increase military spending.
"This president began his presidency by apologizing for America," Romney said. "He should now be apologizing to America."
Romney addressed Obama directly when he blamed the president for 36 consecutive months of unemployment above 8 percent--"the red line your own administration drew."
"I will not just slow the growth of government. I will cut it," Romney said. "I will not just freeze the government's share of the economy. I will reduce it."
With 41 percent of the precincts reporting, Romney has 42 percent of the vote, Newt Gingrich has 27 percent, Ron Paul has 18 percent and Rick Santorum has 13 percent.
Although Romney's victory is significant in percentage terms, the voter turnout for the caucuses was not substantial. With 41 percent of precincts reporting, Romney's total number of votes is fewer than 7,000.
Twenty-eight delegates are at stake, and a big victory will increase Romney's lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination--his second consecutive victory after winning Florida earlier this week.
Although each of the candidates visited Nevada, the voters in the state did not experience the heavy campaigning that went on during the prior four contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. Newt Gingrich elected not to hold an election-night party in the state, opting instead for a post-election press conference, during which he vowed to press on with his campaign.
"I think we will do better than John McCain did four years ago" in Nevada, Gingrich said. "We will get some delegates here."
Calling himself the true conservative in the race, Gingrich compared himself to Republican titans who fended off moderate challengers in 1964 and 1980. "Reagan had this challenge with John Connally. Goldwater had this challenge with Nelson Rockefeller," Gingrich said, adding, "Reagan lost five straight primaries before he started winning in 1976."
(Ronald Reagan did not, of course, win the Republican presidential nomination in 1976.)
Entrance poll results suggest that Romney benefited from the large number of Republicans in the state who share his faith. About one in four voters were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, according to poll data analyzed by Langer Research Associates for ABC News.
The number was roughly the same in 2008, when "Romney won 95 percent of Mormons in the 2008 caucuses," Gary Langer of ABC News reports.
Four years ago, Romney won the state's Republican caucuses with 51 percent of the vote. For weeks, public-opinion polls have shown Romney with a comfortable 20-percentage-point lead in Nevada.
"This is not the first time you've given me your vote of confidence," Romney said. "And this time, I'm gonna take it to the White House."
The candidates now turn to the caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota on Tuesday.
Missouri, where Gingrich failed to get his name on the ballot, will hold a non-binding primary on Tuesday.