Two days after the Nevada Republican Caucus took place, the results have finally been tabulated. Nevada's caucus was the fifth primary of the year, and the second caucus.
Long before the votes were finally tabulated, the consensus was that Mitt Romney would be the winner of the contest, and both exit polls and early returns bore this out, with the remaining question being just how much Romney would win by. As of now, the result is that Romney won about 50% of the vote (his first win by majority). The remaining three active candidates split the remainder of the vote, with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul getting around 20% of the vote each, and Rick Santorum getting a bit under 10%. Since delegates in the contest are given proportionately, all of the candidates will receive some delegates.
Amongst his general status as front runner, the biggest reason for Romney's success was probably that many of the residents of Nevada, particularly those highly motivated enough to go through a caucus process, are, like Romney, Mormon. There was also no particular strengths for Gingrich or Santorum, since their core supporters, southern and midwestern conservatives, are not present in Nevada. Ron Paul's libertarian-leaning supporters were expected to do well, and while Paul did have a good showing, he still placed third.
The race is much as it was at the time of 2012 Florida Republican Primary. At least in terms of numbers: Mitt Romney now has fourteen more delegates to the convention, meaning he is a little bit more than 1% closer to the 1144 delegates he needs to win the nomination. But even though his victory in a non-representative state means little in terms of absolute numbers, it has created much media buzz over the "inevitability" of his nomination. For example, according to CNN:
It was his second straight triumph and third in the five contests so far, bolstering the perception he may be unstoppable in his second bid for the Republican nomination.
Which is a fairly deceptive use of weasel words
. "Bolstering the perception"...of who? Although it isn't an unfounded assertion, it is also making a self-reinforcing narrative where there is little original evidence to back it up.
My own take on this is that the media has not yet come around to the fact that this primary election is indeed, an election. There has not been a truly disputed Republican primary since 1976. Usually, the "front runner", even if he only has a plurality of support, received the consensus of his party if he can do "well enough" in the early contests, and if he seems to have a good "organization". Although it might be premature to guess at this point, it looks like the 2012 Primary season will be an actual election, rather than a popularity contest for Homecoming King.
The last paragraph was somewhat speculative, but as the Nevada contest closes with another victory for Mitt Romney, it appears that Romney is still in the lead, but has yet to close the deal.