Hot and heavy at Romney rally; no cheers for Newt: Scenes from the 2012 Nevada caucuses

Yahoo! News

LAS VEGAS—Mitt Romney's supporters were feeling good long before they arrived at his celebratory election night rally here at the Red Rocks Resort.

On a series of escalator rides to an upstairs ballroom where Romney is set to speak, a man and a woman, both of whom appeared to be in their early sixties, indulged in a lengthy make-out session. Their lips parted only when they had to separate to walk a few feet to transfer to a different escalator leading to the Romney event.

"Mmmmm," the man moaned as the two separated at the top of the escalator to pick up tickets to the event.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd gathered here to mark Romney's victory was a lot more colorful than audiences that turned out for rallies in early voting states. Some Romney supporters looked as though they could have been extras in a Scorsese film—older men in T-shirts with sport coats, accompanied by their aging beauty queen wives. Others wore skin-tight Herve Leger bandage dresses and sky-high heels.

Meanwhile, a family of five wore matching "Romney 2012" tie-dye T-shirts, their red, white and blue colors making the crew look like human-size Firecracker popsicles.

Right in front of the press riser, an older, heavyset man wore a T-shirt that screamed, "AMERICA," though some of the letters were only half visible because his pants were pulled up high beyond his natural waist.

For most of the night, the "AMERICA" man stared into the cameras, his eyes darting back and forth to a large television screen showing live coverage from Fox News. He just wanted to be on TV, he said.

--Holly Bailey, 7:32 p.m. PT

LAS VEGAS--There would be no rally, no party with balloons and signs, no chanting supporters for Newt Gingrich here at the Venetian Hotel Saturday night.

Ten minutes before Gingrich was scheduled to begin a press conference, about 25 members of the press—two and a half rows of reporters and a handful of cameramen— had assembled in the ballroom. Doors remained open, and there was no security at the event.

--Rachel Rose Hartman, 8:05 p.m. PT

LAS VEGAS--It may be caucus day in Nevada, but there was no sign of the Republican presidential campaign on the Las Vegas Strip.

Downtown Vegas was packed Saturday with people gambling, shopping, dining in 60-degree weather, and enjoying two-feet tall drinks.

Most tourists admitted to Yahoo News they were completely unaware that any presidential candidates would be in town or that the state was voting today.

--Rachel Rose Hartman, 5:11 p.m. PT

LAS VEGAS--During each of the first four voting contests in the Republican presidential campaign, the Democratic party has staged in-state events and conference calls to attack the candidates, particularly target No. 1 Mitt Romney.

So where are the Democrats in Nevada?

In a telling sign of Romney's strength in the state, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, spent part of her Friday teaming up with Colorado Democrats for a preemptive attack on Romney, talking to reporters on a conference call. Colorado Republicans vote on Tuesday.

She held no events in Nevada on Saturday.

--Rachel Rose Hartman, 4:51 p.m PT

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.--Mitt Romney will hold an election night rally at the Red Rock casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, but for much of the day, he has been looking ahead to the voters who will caucus in this state on Tuesday—and working on his image as the potential Republican presidential nominee.

Romney left Nevada this morning for a quick rally at a metal fabrication factory near the airport here. He was accompanied on the flight by two of his five sons and four of his grandchildren, whom he escorted off the plane and down the tarmac in front of his traveling press corps.

It was a golden photo opportunity for the news media—and for the Romney campaign, which has been putting great effort into humanizing its candidate. In recent days, the campaign has been giving greater access to news photographers, who have been allowed to take photos of Romney and his family on the campaign bus and backstage at events.

The result has been dozens of images that show Romney in candid moments—reading his iPad on the bus or chatting on his iPhone.

"Here we go," Romney said as he helped one of his granddaughters, who was dressed in a sweater with the image of a pony on the front, into a van in his motorcade.

His new Secret Service detail kept their distance, so as not to ruin the photograph, but it was almost spoiled by the presence of one of Romney's image gurus, Stuart Stevens, who was chatting on his iPhone near the van's passenger door.

Romney tapped him gently, and Stevens moved. "There you go," Romney said.

--Holly Bailey, 3:01 p.m. PT

LAS VEGAS--A lot of attention has been given to Nevada's Mormon voters in 2012, because the state has a relatively large population of Mormons (7 percent), and there's a Mormon (Mitt Romney) running for president.

Yahoo News asked congregants at the nondenominational Christian International Life Church of Las Vegas, where Newt Gingrich later appeared on Friday night, whether they think the right amount of attention is being paid to Mormon voters during the 2012 presidential campaign.

--Rachel Rose Hartman, 2:48 p.m. PT

LAS VEGAS--Where are the candidates? As voters arrived at and departed from their caucus locations, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were nowhere to be found. Most of the Republican presidential candidates have spent the day in other states altogether.

The reason?  The action here will end by early afternoon. Most caucuses conclude in the state at 11 a.m. or 12 p.m. PT, so there's really no point for candidates to spend a whole day on the ground in Nevada.

However, two candidates will be in town tonight: Romney, the frontrunner in the state, left this morning for Colorado but is planning to return to Las Vegas tonight for a results party. Gingrich, who isn't holding any public events today, has planned a Las Vegas press conference as the results are announced tonight.

Santorum, who was last in Nevada on Thursday, has spent Saturday in Colorado, where voters caucus on Tuesday. Paul is in Minnesota, which also holds caucuses on Feb. 7.

--Rachel Rose Hartman, 1:04 p.m. PT

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LAS VEGAS--As gunshots echoed from the shooting range in low, rapid bursts, Ron Paul pushed his way through a pressing throng Friday night at the American Shooters firearms store.

Paul fans dodged racks of hunting gear and boxes of ammunition (not to mention reporters and cameramen) to keep up with the Texas congressman as he attempted to greet potential Nevada voters.

When Paul first stepped out of his black SUV, he met what's been a typical scene for him here in Nevada: a large crowd chanting "President Paul" and waving huge banners and signs. Multiple security assistants helped block reporters and others from following Paul into the shop (they seemed to be trying to avoid another New Hampshire press crush incident), but the shop was packed. All that commotion still didn't stop some customers from continuing their shooting practice in the next room.

Despite the crunch, supporters, several of whom brought their infants ("this is his first presidential rally" one woman said of the boy strapped to her chest) delighted in being in Paul's proximity.

"I'm never going to wash this hand again," one 12-year-old girl, her hair streaked with green, told reporters after shaking Paul's hand.

As it became clear that Paul was inching his way to the exit, some supporters turned to one another with worry. "Isn't he speaking?" one asked. The visit lasted about 15 minutes. "He's going to another place!" some said. The most ardent fans set to figuring out how to get a second glimpse of Ron Paul on a Friday night in Las Vegas.

--Rachel Rose Hartman, 8:11 a.m. PT

LAS VEGAS--Newt Gingrich took a moment out of a campaign stop on Friday to woo a targeted slice of the Republican electorate: pet lovers.

While speaking at a rally at Stoney's Rockin' Country cowboy bar here, Gingrich noticed Joyce Dawson clutching her sweater-clad Papillon. He paused--he had been listing his planned executive orders upon taking office--to address a now-pressing matter.

"We have a section [on our website] that you can go to: 'Pets With Newt,'" Gingrich told Dawson and the crowd of supporters, many of whom cheered at the mere mention of furry critters.

Then Gingrich went further and claimed that the Obama campaign stole his idea and launched its own version five weeks later.

"Imitation is the highest form of flattery," Gingrich said. "Next we'll see President Barack Obama saying he likes jobs." The audience roared.

Among Republicans, Gingrich likely has the pet lovers' vote won. Don't expect Mitt Romney--still taking flak for strapping his family dog to the roof of his car--to vie for this demographic.

--Rachel Rose Hartman, 7:47 a.m. PT

Read more coverage of the 2012 Nevada caucuses at Yahoo News.

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