LAS VEGAS, NV -- Newt Gingrich, limping away from a brutal Florida loss, doesn't have much to look forward to in Nevada. Avoiding a total wipeout, especially a third place finish behind Ron Paul, is likely to be the top goal.
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The state's caucuses were a high water mark in 2008 for Mitt Romney, who won 51.1% of the vote, and Paul, who placed second with 13.7%.
Romney benefits from a large Mormon minority that's energized by Romney's historic candidacy and expected to make up an even larger share of the GOP primary. in 2008, entrance polls showed as many as 25% of Republican caucus-goers were Mormon, 94% of whom supported Romney, despite making up just 7.5% of the state's population. His close ties to neighboring Utah also make him a more known quantity compared to the rest of the field.
As a result, Newt -- while still planning to contest the state --is rushing to downplay expectations.