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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fear & Loathing On The Campaign Trail In Las Vegas

by dday

I'm still actually trying to process what I saw today. I attended the at-large caucus at the Wynn Hotel and Casino. Suffice to say (for now) that it was the most surreal political event in American history, and I'm trying to be understated. Imagine a costume party with politics mixed in.

For the record, there are a lot of allegations flying around about voter intimidation and voter suppression and all of that, on the Clinton AND on the Obama side (the Edwards folks are saying they just didn't have the people and didn't have the money). To be clear, I saw none of that at the Wynn, though of course, there was so much media there nobody would have been able to get away with it.

I'll give a full report probably tomorrow.

P.S. The Nevada State Democratic Party is reporting that turnout is above 114,000 caucus attendees, with 88% of precincts reporting. That is a ridiculously high number. Something like 9,000 people voted in 2004. Another good day for Democrats.

P.S.S. The Obama campaign is claiming that they're going to end up with 13 delegates to Clinton's 12, because he outperformed Clinton in rural areas of the state. Indeed, in everything but Clark and Washoe Counties (Vegas and Reno), Obama won 55-45%. I have no idea if this is true, but considering the delegate count is what actually MATTERS, you'd think that this would be reported.

P.S.S.S. OK, I just spoke with Jill Derby, the head of the Nevada State Democratic Party. Regarding the Obama claim that he'll actually get more delegates out of this, essentially that's spin. Derby said that the caucuses are an "expression of the support of Nevadans today." Around 11,000 delegates were elected today. That will be winnowed down at county conventions and eventually at the state convention in May to the 25 that will go to Denver for the DNC. In 2004, Kerry didn't win every delegate on Election Day, but most of the delegates that eventually went to the DNC were his. Once there's a presumptive nominee, the delegate numbers are subject to change. It's non-binding.

If that makes your head spin, the short version is that this was a beauty contest, and you can't project delegate numbers at this time.

On the question of charges of voter suppression and intimidation, which the Obama campaign is officially alleging, Derby said this (paraphrase):

"We had strict standards in place for what went on in the caucus room. Outside of the room is not necessarily our purview. We did get a few calls over the course of the day, and we did eject some people from the caucus room for engaging in tactics that were not within the rules."

I asked her if she was going to initiate an investigation, and she demurred. She basically said that if Nevadans feel they have had their voting rights infringed upon, they should take it up with the "proper avenues," which specifically she said was the courts. She also basically said that there was a lot of passion on both sides, and these kind of charges get thrown around in those circumstances.

Trying to be hands-off here, just the facts, ma'am. I can tell you one thing - this will not go away, and it could end up being a very big part of the conversation heading into South Carolina.

Update from Digby: d-day nailed it

Statement by Nevada Democratic Party Chair Jill Derby Regarding the Nevada Caucus

(Las Vegas, NV) Today, two out of three Nevadans who caucused chose a Democrat instead of a Republican for president. That is an overwhelming majority vote for a new direction. Just like in Iowa what was awarded today were delegates to the County Convention. No national convention delegates were awarded. The calculations of national convention delegates being circulated are based upon an assumption that delegate preferences will remain the same between now and April 2008. We look forward to our county and state conventions where we will choose the delegates for the nominee that Nevadans support.