HENDERSON, Nev. — Touching down in Las Vegas after the networks declared Mitt Romney winner of the critical Florida primary, an upbeat Rep. Ron Paul told hundreds of cheering supporters in a stuffy hotel ballroom that “if enthusiasm wins elections, we win hands down.”
“Just a little while ago, I called Gov. Romney and congratulated him,” the 12-term Texas congressman said, as his supporters booed at the very mention of the front-runner. “We had a friendly conversation. … I also said I would see him soon in the caucus states!”
Those are the venues where Paul has focused most of his time and attention, the states where he said Tuesday night that he benefits from the energy of “an irate minority.” Last week, he campaigned in Maine, whose weeklong caucuses begin Saturday. Paul flew in from Colorado, whose caucus is on Feb. 7. Nevada voters gather on Saturday.
“A few months ago, there were nine” candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination, Paul said, undaunted by his fourth-place showing in Florida. “We’re down to four. … I’ve been doing a little bit of campaigning for liberty for a long time. Something big is happening in this country, and it’s all very favorable.”
Paul slammed Washington for giving Americans “a lousy foreign policy, a lousy recession … the problem is too much government. We need more personal liberty.”
Some of Paul’s supporters seemed a little more worried than their optimistic candidate on Tuesday night. As she waited for Paul to arrive at the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Casino in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, stay-at-home-mom Lisa Barger, 43, said she was disappointed by the Florida results.
But she remains a staunch Paul supporter, because “you support who you believe in, and your belief isn’t going to change. … There’s a lot of people who believe in him.”
“I believe in constitutional rights, and Ron Paul stands for that,” said Barger, who lives in Las Vegas. “I don’t like the idea of being in war when we don’t need to be.”
Yvonne Joy Nellis, 56, said that “in Nevada, I’m just praying that he makes it.” She worries that the mainstream media is ignoring Paul, and she said she frets about the possibility of voter fraud. But as she gripped a yard sign and waited for the candidate to make his way through notorious Las Vegas traffic, she vowed to go to the caucuses on Saturday.
“He’s more for the people,” said the Las Vegas resident, who provides support services for disabled people and switched her registration from Democrat to Republican so she could vote for Paul. “He doesn’t want to spend any more money than we have to on any war and he wants to cut down on the government running America.”