Meet the Candidates: Mitt Romney
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The Nevada caucuses are tomorrow and all four presidential hopefuls have visited Reno in preparation for the event. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the man to beat in Saturday's caucuses, according to political experts, Nevadans and campaign operatives.
Both UNR Political Scientists Erik Herzik and consultant for a pro-Gingrich SuperPAC, Chuck Muth say this is Romney's race to lose
A Public Policy Poll released late Thursday found 50 percent of voters in Nevada plan to support Romney on Saturday. Newt Gingrich finished second with 25 percent.
But that doesn't mean it has been an easy campaign. The former Massachusetts governor suffered a tough loss in South Carolina, and he still has to appeal to more conservative Republicans.
"There is still a desire to find an alternative to Mitt Romney," Herzik says. "He still has problems with the base of the base of the conservative moment. Those are people who considered themselves strong conservatives and members of the Tea Party."
Many of those conservatives dislike Romney because they believe he's too similar to President Ovama, especially on health care.
In a phone interview, Rob Erwin, a senior advisor to Romney, pointed to Romney's business experience.
"Mitt Romney's private sector experience where he's actually has to work with businesses, seen the highs and lows and the problems government creates constrasts with every candidate in this race, but especially constrasts with Barack Obama and his belief in growing government."
Many national media outlets say Romney's Mormon faith is also helpful in Nevada, where 20 percent of the electorate are Mormons. Some political scientists say his faith hurt him in the South Carolina primary, where there are more Christian voters.
"Mitt Romney doesn't have to defend himself with the Mormon Republicans, [who say] that 'you're really not conservative,' or 'you don't have the right values,'" Herzik said.
Erwin with the Romney campaign says the former Massachusetts governor appeals to others in the state too.
"Four years ago, there were enough self-identified Catholics that voted for Mitt Romney to have won the caucus. There were enough self-identified Protestants who voted for Mitt Romney to have won."
One newer development in the Romney campaign is his shift to criticze the Obama Aministration, instead of the other GOP candidates.
At a rally in Reno on Thursday, he criticized the president's policies on energy, military spending and especially, the economy.
"The median income of American families, down by 10 percent in the last four years. 10 percent, even as the cost of gasoline and food and healthcare have gone up," Romney said to the full room at the Grove in South Reno.
As Romney tries to win over conservative Republicans, he must also work to attract independents and moderates who may vote for him in the general election, if he's chosen as the nominee.
"That's what is important," said Fred Lokken, a political scientist at Truckee Meadows Community College.
"He has to have an appeal to independents and the possibiilty of cross over Democrats who don't findthe Barack Obama candidacy appealing. He has to atone a bit in Massachusettes to conservatives, [but] he has a much broader appeal to moderates and independents," Lokken said.
Reno Public Radio will continue it's caucus coverage tomorrow as we bring you up to minute results Saturday evening.