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January 11, 2008
High Stakes Poker for Dems in Nevada
The stakes are high in Nevada for the Democrats who will Caucus on January 19th to determine who wins the bulk of the state's 33 delegates. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been working the state for months, piling up endorsements and saturating the air waves with ads.
Clinton has the support of most of the Democratic establishment. Obama just received the endorsement of the most powerful union in the state - the 60,000 Culinary Workers Union. And both canddates plan to spend plenty of time in the state before the voting:
But Clinton is in the final heat of an intense race for the Democratic nomination, and Nevada, which holds the Democrats' next contest, on Jan. 19, is ground zero for that cold, hard fight. There is a large Hispanic vote in Nevada and the state has been trending toward the Democrats in recent elections. While much of the state is considered conservative, Clark County (Las Vegas) comprises about 50% of the population and is heavily Democratic.
After leaving the Santanas' house, Clinton walked across the street and took questions from a few of the dozens of reporters, standing in front of a faded American flag pinned to a dingy garage door. Today, Clinton is scheduled to travel to Los Angeles, where she will give a policy speech about the economy and what kind of stimulus she believes it needs. "I think we're slipping toward a recession," she said.
"A couple of people that I met on the street, they work in construction. They tell me it's slowed down." She reiterated her doubts about the caucus process, which requires in-person, on-time participation. "That is troubling to me," she said. "People who work during that amount of time, they're disenfranchised. People who can't be in the state or are in the military, they cannot be present. ... If people feel like there's no reason to participate or they can't, then that's the same thing. So I think it's a problem."
Clinton and her busload of traveling press moved from there to the popular local Mexican restaurant Lindo Michoacan, where a "roundtable" that was actually square passed a microphone around to tell her people's concerns about the mortgage crisis and foreclosures. She took notes and munched on tortilla chips. In broken English, one woman told Clinton how she wasn't making money as a broker anymore. "I have no income at all," she said. "So how will I survive?" Choking up with emotion, the woman said, "In my neighborhood, there are brand-new homes, but the value is nothing. I'm glad you are here so I can tell you, because you're going to be the president, I know."
A man shouted through an opening in the wall that his wife was illegal.
"No woman is illegal," Clinton said, to cheers.
The faster Las Vegas has grown, the more Democratic the state has become. Unions also play a large role in politics - something of an anomaly out west. So with Obama's endorsement by the Culinary workers, it is thought he may have a leg up on the former First Lady when Nevadans go to their Caucus sites.