Spooning the Silver State
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.