RENO " Nevada Republicans cheered Saturday as former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney urged support for John McCain " but Ron Paul got even louder applause at the state GOP convention as he delivered his message of individual freedom and fiscal responsibility.
Romney, who trounced all other Republican contenders by getting 52 percent in Nevada's precinct straw polls, said his job now is to make sure McCain wins the presidency. In the January straw polling, McCain and Paul split a quarter of the votes.
In comments to reporters, Romney also said he's not stumping for McCain to improve his odds of having his former rival pick him as his running mate. In previous remarks, Romney has acknowledged he'd be interested in serving on the GOP ticket if McCain asked.
Speaking to more than 1,300 convention delegates, Romney praised McCain as "a man who has been tested and proven, a man who knows how to strengthen our economy, a man who knows how to help us defeat radical jihadists and terrorists throughout the world."
Romney, a harsh critic of McCain's economic credentials until he dropped out of the presidential race in early February, also hailed McCain's support of lower taxes as a way to help a sagging national economy.
Paul drew raucous cheers and applause as he said he will stay in the presidential race and focus on goals of limiting the size and power of the federal government, revamping national monetary policies and protecting constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
"Of course, if we had a proper-size government and we were living within our means and we couldn't print money and we weren't borrowing money, guess what? We wouldn't have an IRS or an income tax either," Paul said.
Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons was applauded by convention delegates as he described the budget cuts that have been imposed to deal with a looming state revenue shortfall of more than $900 million " and promised that he wouldn't support increased taxes to resolve the budget crisis.
Gibbons said some leading Nevada Democrats "want to tax us into oblivion," but his 2006 campaign vow to oppose any new or increased levies was "not just some cheap political promise."
The governor also told reporters that a special legislative session "is not off the table," but wouldn't be convened for the purpose of raising taxes. Instead, it would be a broad-based approach to decide on deeper cuts in operating budgets of government agencies if needed, he and top aides said.