Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Spooning the Silver State

By Shawn Healy
I'm back with my final forecasts for this weekend's early season presidential showdowns in South Carolina and Nevada. On Wednesday, I assessed the muddy state of the GOP race, and will turn my attention to the equally rancorous, but more limited Democratic contest centered in Sin City.

The chief controversy in the Silver State this week centered on a lawsuit filed by the state teachers union. They contested the nine casinos that will serve as at large caucus sites on Saturday, arguing that these voters will receive preferable treatment in comparison to their counterparts across the state. Democratic voters who work within 2.5 miles of these sites may participate regardless of their place of residence.

The sticking point here is that these casinos are staffed by workers from the culinary union who endorsed Sen. Barack Obama. Clinton has many supporters of her own in the teachers union who filed the suit, even though former Pres. Clinton dismissed any connection between Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign and the challenge. At this juncture, these arguments are moot as a U.S. District judge determined that the Democratic Party is free to administer their caucuses as they choose. Obama 1, Hillary 0, if you're keeping score at home.

The second element of intrique entering tomorrow's Democratic contest is the tendencies of Latino voters. They represent a substantial portion of Nevada's Democratic electorate, although many cannot vote on account of age or citizenship. Moreover, Latino turnout has historically lagged significantly behind that of whites and African-Americans. Clinton benefits from her husband's popularity amongst Latinos and his record and appointing them to cabinet posts (Cisneros, Pena). Obama must contend with racial tensions between Latinos and African-Americans. The wildcard here is that many members of the aforementioned culinary union are Latinos. That said, this is Hillary's vote to lose, and I'm betting she wins it. Hillary and Obama tied at 1 apiece.

Speaking of race, the contest assumed an ugly tone last weekend and during the early part of this week. It centered on comments that Pres. Clinton made last week before a group of college students in New Hampshire. He contended that Obama's positions on the Iraq War were nothing more than a fairy tale. Hillary added to the mix by suggesting that despite all of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s efforts, civil rights legislation didn't become law until the savvy, experienced Lyndon Johnson entered the White House.

Both jabs were interpreted by the Obama campaign and some members of the African-American community as racist, and the Clinton's rushed quickly to emphasize quite the opposite. Obama and Clinton buried their hatchets on Tuesday during a Las Vegas debate, but the animosity in this close contest is probably only budding. No winner here, so the score remains tied.

What about endorsements? Hillary sealed up substantial establishment support before the campaign moved into high gear, but Obama has come back with some significant supporters of his own. In addition to Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Obama was endorsed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Moreover, Obama received editorial endorsements from the Las Vegas Review Journal and the Reno Gazette Journal. As a result, he's earned a least a tie with the NY senator. Clinton and Obama tied at 2.

In a close contest we must turn to dreaded polling data. The numbers are limited here and turnout is a huge wildcard in a state without the caucus experience of Iowa. These caveats aside, four polls have been conducted since the New Hampshire primaries, and all but one show Hillary Clinton with at least a slim lead over Obama. Averaged together, Clinton comes in at 37%, Obama at 33% and former Sen. John Edwards at 20%. Edge: Clinton 3, Obama 2.

With that I predict, with more than a slight degree of hesitation, that Hillary Clinton will win tomorrow's Democratic caucuses. Obama places a close second, and Edwards a distant third. The former NC senator is seemingly enabling Clinton to hold off Obama, and the longer he stays in the race, the more likely it appears that this nomination battle will go down to the wire without a clear frontrunner.

I'll be back on Tuesday with a summary of Saturday's results, and will also record another podcast that afternoon. Hang on tight, because Tsunami Tuesday is just around the corner. Things are just starting to get interesting.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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