HENDERSON — Two hours before a rally here on caucus eve, Metro Pizza buzzed with Mitt Romney supporters, but the owners, cousins John Arena and Sam Facchini, welcomed the throngs with seasoned calm. “We’ve dealt with a number of US Presidents — Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Clinton,” said Facchini with a we’ve-been-here-before look.
So, considering the cross-partisan visitors who had made pilgrimages to “Las Vegas’ Favorite Pizza,” were they Romney supporters?
“I support Mitt Romney,” said Facchini. “He’s a job creator, and so are we.”
Arena smiled and put it more delicately this way: “I’m a fan of the system … I don’t make up my mind who to vote for till the day of the polls.”
The Henderson crowd was diverse — multigenerational families, people of color, groups of women and couples chatted excitedly. They came out to see the man they hoped would replace Barack Obama in the White House.
I asked people why they were supporting Romney. Two self-proclaimed “Tea Partiers” said Newt Gingrich was a “closet Democrat” who had his chance back in the 1990s when he was Speaker of the House. They wistfully declared that the Republican nomination should have gone to Texas governor Rick Perry — but that “Romney will get the job done.”
A young woman juggling three young children said, “Romney’s a businessman, who’ll turn the country around.” I asked how her friends felt, and she said they were all over the political map — “even some Obama supporters.”
South Dakota Senator John Thune and former Utah Governer Mike Leavitt introduced Romney, who gave a practiced stump speech that fired up the crowd. At one point Romney asked how many active duty military or veterans were in the crowd, and almost 40% raised hands.
His speech touched on family, economy, military, and Obama, and made no mention of the other GOP candidates—for this crowd, and likely for Nevada, there is no one but Romney.
Photos & video contributed by Corey Christiansen