A look at key moments in the NV caucuses

Associated Press + More

By ANDREW MIGA, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some notable moments from Saturday's Nevada presidential caucuses:

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GINGRICH'S SOUTHERN COMFORT?

It was a week Newt Gingrich probably wants to forget. And fast.

The former House speaker was trounced in Florida's primary on Tuesday by Mitt Romney, only to stumble again in the next stop, Nevada.

Gingrich bungled a meeting with Nevada's governor, then was embarrassed after his advisers told reporters that Gingrich would score the endorsement of Donald Trump, only to have the unpredictable real estate tycoon publicly back Romney.

So Gingrich, whose freewheeling campaign is plagued by organizational and money woes, is struggling to rebound after losing Nevada.

That won't be easy as the race heads to states largely favorable to Romney over the next few weeks, including Romney's home state of Michigan, as well as Colorado and Minnesota, which Romney won in 2008. More losses could add to the pressure on Gingrich to bow out.

But there may be at least one bright spot ahead for Gingrich: Georgia, which holds its primary on March 6 with nine other "Super Tuesday" states. Gingrich was a Georgia congressman. He scored an upset in South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary, but it has been Romney ever since.

Gingrich spent much of his time in Nevada raising money he'll need to compete with Romney in big states down the road. He ran no TV ads in Nevada.

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MORMONS, CONSERVATIVES CARRY ROMNEY

Romney had his best performance yet among conservatives and won overwhelming backing from Nevada's Mormons.

Nearly 6 in 10 conservatives backed Romney, preliminary results of a poll of voters entering the caucuses showed.

One in 4 voters was Mormon, as is Romney, and 9 in 10 backed him.

Around 4 in 5 called themselves conservative, tying Nevada with Iowa as the most conservative group of voters yet in this year's contests.

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ON FIDELITY, INFIDELITY

Some views from caucus-goers:

"Mitt Romney has been able to stay married to the same woman his whole life without any indiscretions. Mitt Romney is the only option who can bring this around to beat Obama." — Vinney Tolman, 35-year-old Sparks, Nev., small business owner.

"After Bill Clinton, who cares? ... Our country is more important." — Tricia Trowbridge, 57-year-old Las Vegas warehouse manager, on Gingrich's infidelities.

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A GOP BREATHER

The Republican four-pack of candidates will catch a bit of a break this month after a hectic January that boasted contests in four key states and a seemingly endless string of debates.

For starters, there's just one debate this month. From Nevada, the race rumbles Tuesday into Minnesota and Colorado for caucuses and a nonbinding primary in Missouri. Maine's caucus results come Saturday. That leaves a lengthy 17-day run up until the Arizona and Michigan primaries on Feb. 28

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LEAVING LAS VEGAS

Rick Santorum wasn't even in Nevada for the caucuses, campaigning instead in Colorado, which holds caucuses on Tuesday. Texas Rep. Ron Paul focused on Minnesota.

Santorum hasn't won since he eked out a razor-thin victory in the late-decided Iowa caucuses, and he needs to find a breakthrough state.

The former Pennsylvania senator has taken sharp aim at Gingrich, saying he could beat Romney if the former House speaker would drop out.

Santorum poked fun at Gingrich during a Colorado stop, saying that Washington has gone too far in its environmental policies, especially in the West. He said over-reaching environmental regulators were trampling on ranchers with a Washington-knows-best approach.

"'We'll make sure that you don't do something to scar the land or endanger a newt,'" Santorum said. "No, not that Newt. I want to endanger that Newt. That's a different story."

Paul was campaigning in Minnesota as the Nevada results were tallied, touting his libertarian-leaning views of more freedom and less government at a rally.

"They are stealing our liberty from us," he told the crowd.

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