Nevada Caucus Day, but GOP candidates looking ahead

Newt Gingrich in Nevada.

The action today during the Nevada caucuses was off the Las Vegas strip. Far off the Vegas strip – in another state.

Not one Republican candidate, vying for their party’s nomination, campaigned in Nevada today.

But it wasn’t all quiet on the Western front. The remaining four candidates, Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. Rick Santorum, Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Congressman Ron Paul, looked ahead to the other Western races next week.

At a town hall at Mayo High School in Rochester, Minnesota today Congressman Ron Paul said a strong showing in the upcoming Minnesota race will help his candidacy.

“In Minnesota if we do well the people will notice,” Paul said today.

Elsewhere, campaigning in Colorado today, Sen. Rick Santorum said Nevada just wasn’t a good match for him demographically and financially.

"Nevada is a state that very much favors Gov. Romney," Santorum said. "He's invested about $1 million in the state already. Ron Paul's got close to $1 million in the state. We just don't have those resources. We think we'll do well in some of the conservative areas. It's not as demographically -- Las Vegas doesn't match up for me as well as some other states do. We're not putting an emphasis on it."

But Romney – at least today – wasn’t putting an emphasis on Vegas either. He too spent the afternoon campaigning Colorado, holding a grassroots rally in Colorado Springs.

There’s good reason for Romney’s confidence in Nevada today.

Polls leading up to today’s caucus showed Romney to have a double digit lead over Gingrich going into tonight’s caucus.

Romney also has a good track record in the state. In the 2008 Republican primary he won the Nevada caucus with 51% of the vote. This year, Mormons are expected to make up 25% of caucus goers tonight, which will be another benefit to Romney.

There are twenty-eight delegates at stake in this race. This is important because even though Romney is the odds-on favorite to win the caucus, the delegates are given our proportionally. This means that the other candidates will have an incentive to scramble for second and third place to increase their own delegate count.

And the delegate count matters in a race where one candidate – Newt Gingrich – has made a strong pledge to stay in the race.

“We are going to contest every place and we are going to win and we will be in Tampa as the nominee in August,” Gingrich said after his loss in the Florida primary.

Polls close at 10 pm Eastern time tonight.

Romney holds what he hopes will be a victory speech at the Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas. Gingrich, after no events today, will hold a press conference – not a rally or a speech – after tonight’s results.