COUNTDOWN

Democratic Clout Brings Early Caucus to Nevada

By Shailagh Murray And Chris Cillizza
Sunday, November 4, 2007

Will the Democratic Party regret gambling on Nevada?

Many party officials were skeptical when the Silver State sought the No. 3 position on the nominating calendar. Other than casinos, Yucca Mountain and the culinary workers union, what else is there out there? The more logical Western candidate was Arizona, but even a popular governor such as Janet Napolitano couldn't match the clout of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

Nevada got its wish, securing a Jan. 19 caucus date, but the state remains an outlier on the campaign circuit. Former president Bill Clinton holds a rally tomorrow in Las Vegas for his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, but events featuring actual candidates have been few, with a steady diet of surrogates showing up, instead. According to a running tally by washingtonpost.com, Democratic candidates have logged about 100 trips to Nevada since January, although a big date still looms: Nov. 15, when a debate will be in Las Vegas.

One issue in Nevada is settled: All the Democrats oppose dumping nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. But a few other issues remain unresolved, and they could make the contest interesting:

¿ Will special attention from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson pay off? The state's most frequent visitor, he's hoping a Nevada win will jump-start his candidacy.

¿ What will the culinary workers do? This is the mother lode of union endorsements here, representing 60,000 casino and restaurant workers in Las Vegas and Reno, many of them Hispanic. Word is the nod will come sometime after Thanksgiving.

¿ Is the fix in for Clinton? Reid's son, Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, is chairing her campaign in Nevada. The senator himself is the state's Democratic power broker. (The elder Reid, of course, is neutral.)

¿ Will the veterans show up? Party officials hope they will caucus in big numbers, fueled by opposition to the Iraq war. One of Nevada's selling points was its growing population of this potentially vital voting bloc. "The energy is really high, but the key thing is we do well in January," said Elliot Anderson, a party official who is helping to organize the group.

TWO DAYS: The bloodbath between state Rep. Bob Latta (R) and state Sen. Steve Buehrer (R) in Ohio reaches its merciful conclusion. What once looked like a semi-sedate special election to replace the late Rep. Paul E. Gillmor (R) has turned increasingly nasty as charges and countercharges are exchanged nearly every day. Depending on whose polling you believe, the two men are either knotted in a close race, or Latta has a double-digit lead. Regardless of the eventual nominee, Republicans should keep this northwestern seat that went 61 percent for President Bush in 2004.

SEVEN DAYS: Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) goes toe to toe with NBC's Tim Russert on "Meet the Press." It's Obama's first appearance on the granddaddy of all Sunday talk shows since declaring for president. Will he shine or wither under Russert's inquisition?


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