Romney hopes for lopsided win in Nev. caucuses

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at Brady Industries Feb.1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Getty Images/Ethan Miller

LAS VEGAS -- Mitt Romney appears to be on cruise control.

The Republican presidential candidate is expected to win big Saturday in the Nevada caucuses.

Romney was on the stump Friday, trying to convince voters he can put the nation's economy back on track, even as stronger-than-expected jobs numbers sent the unemployment rate down.

For months, Romney has accused President Obama of making the recession worse. but after Friday's surprisingly strong economic report showed unemployment falling from 8.5 to 8.3 percent, Romney's tune changed -- a bit.

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"We got good news this morning on job creation in January," he said. "I hope that continues, we get people back to work."

But in Nevada, where unemployment has soared from 8.7 to 12.6 percent -- highest in the nation -- since the president took office, Romney still found plenty to criticize

"This recovery," he asserted, "has been slower than it should have been. People have been suffering for longer than they should have had to suffer. ... This president has not helped the process. He's hurt it."

In three campaign appearances Friday, Romney did not even mention Newt Gingrich who, according to the latest poll, done by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, trails Romney in Nevada, 45 to 25 percent.

Hoping to make up ground on the last day of campaigning, Gingrich referred to Romney as "Obama-lite," and once again seized on Romney's recent gaffe that he is "not concerned about the very poor."

"My goal," said Gingrich, "is the exact opposite of Governor Romney -- my goal is not to ignore or forget the poor. My goal is to turn the safety net into a trampoline to allow the poor to rise and be like the rest of us and have a job and buy a house," he said to applause.

Gingrich has brought up Romney's remark about the very poor at virtually every event, and it just doesn't seem to have helped him.

However, you can bet that, should Romney get the GOP nod, the Obama campaign will bring it up repeatedly, to make the case that Romney is out of touch.

Next stop: Colorado, where it's expected that Romney will also do well.

As far as his campaign is concerned, this thing is just about over, and that is the message he's sending by not even mentioning his Republican opponents now.

To see Chip Reid's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.