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Romney to Appear on Tonight Show

Mitt Romney holds up a license plate during a Las Vegas rally. (Getty Images).

By Michael D. Shear
LAS VEGAS, Jan. 18 -- While his rivals courted voters in South Carolina, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney barnstormed across Nevada as he sought a victory on Saturday to provide momentum before Florida's contest at the end of the month.

Friday afternoon, he planned to jet to Los Angeles to tape an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." "It worked for Huckabee. He won Iowa, so apparently it was the right strategy," joked press secretary Eric Fehrnstrom. "We've determined that the path to the White House goes through the Jay Leno show."

Fehrnstrom added that going on the nationally televised entertainment program was the "only way he could be in South Carolina and Nevada at the same time." When asked whether Romney knew any good jokes, he said "We'll find out tonight."

Four hundred people packed into his Las Vegas headquarters Thursday night to hear Romney promise a litany of improvements in what he calls a "broken" Washington if he is elected president.

Romney vowed better treatment for veterans, more troops for the military, the end of illegal immigration, lower taxes, "terrific" schools, less dependence on foreign oil and a new focus on the family.

"I want our kids to understand that before they have babies they should get married," he said to the roar of applause from the crowd.

Friday, Romney woke before dawn at a posh Vegas resort to make stops in Elko, Reno and back to Las Vegas. He planned to fly to Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday to begin campaigning there even before the votes are counted in South Carolina and Nevada.

Aides insisted that rivals have campaigned here more than people think. They said Arizona Sen. John McCain has an effective operation on the ground and they said their supporters have received hundreds of aggressive "push poll" phone calls from a group supporting former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

But a Nevada victory is likely to be given short shrift since none of Romney's major rivals has spent any significant time here recently. Instead, the focus is on South Carolina, where McCain and Huckabee are battling for first place.

In Elko, a town of 30,000 in Northeast Nevada where a gold mine continues to boost the economy, Romney tried to fire up about 200 people at Adobe Middle School with criticism of the Democrats who were coming to the town later in the day.

Saying that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama "take their inspiration from the Europe of old," he derided them for wanting big government, higher taxes and socialized medicine. Noting that Obama often campaigns in front of a "change" sign, he joked, "that's what you'll have left in your pocket if he's president."

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 18, 2008; 11:40 AM ET
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Next: Back to School for Huck and Chuck

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