Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nevada Primary

I promised a look at the Nevada Democratic Primary and it will be starting in about 3 hours, so I figured I’d better get on it. I don’t really feel like writing this and my head hurts, so don’t expect too much in-depth analysis, or for that matter, anything that resembles rational thought.

After splitting the first two races in Iowa and New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have focused the lion’s share of their efforts on the state of Nevada. For the first time ever, the Nevada caucus was moved to the front of primary season, which means the state will be influential in deciding who ultimately gets the Democratic nomination. On February 5th, around 25-30 states will have their primaries. Consequently, candidates fight for early primary states such as Nevada so that they can build momentum and gain national support/recognition by the time February 5th rolls around (called Super Tuesday). This will be the first and last representation the Western part of the US has in the primary season until Super Tuesday, so it’s the only indicator one has to go off of when looking at the political mood out here. Immigration, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, health care, union issues, and the war seem to be the most important issues to people in Nevada and California. So, I’m interested to see what Democratic candidate the people out here think will best handle these issues.

Obama has received endorsements from Nevada’s 60,000 member Culinary Workers Union whose members work up and down the Las Vegas Strip. In fact, every major casino in Las Vegas is setting up areas in their buildings so that employees (union members) can caucus while working. The Teachers Union in Nevada tried to stop the casinos from setting up these caucus areas, but a judge denied the appeal. Members of the Teachers Union were arguing that these sites were unfair as it gave unequal representation to those Culinary Workers Union members who would have access to a caucus site on the job. You see, members of the Teachers Union will have to drive to their caucus location today. One can’t just walk into work and caucus; making it less likely members of the Teachers Union will actually become involved in the process. (The Teachers Union strongly backs Hillary Clinton and many think the Clinton machine had something to do with the lawsuit.)

The Nevada caucus has taking on extra significance after Barack’s improbable win in Iowa, and Hillary’s seemingly improbable comeback victory in New Hampshire. Clinton, even a month ago, led in Nevada by over 20 points in most statistical polls, but now these same polls suggest that Obama has closed the gap. In fact, he is at least within the margin of error in almost all polls that have been conducted over the last few days. The Hispanics haven’t really leaned for one candidate over the other yet, but a large percentage of them are union members, so it would seem that Obama might have the upper hand. Moreover, Barack has taken most of the black vote away from Hilary. A couple months ago, Hillary had the support of 25-30% more African Americans than Obama. Now, Obama leads that same vote by 25-30%. After Obama’s win in Iowa (where 93% of the Democrats caucusing were white), African- Americans believe that Obama is a viable candidate who actually has a chance at winning the national election. But as we learned in New Hampshire, where all polls showed Obama leading by double digits the day before the primary, nothing is certain.

I just really don’t know what to think. After Obama’s performance in Iowa, I was almost certain he would carry NH, and ride that momentum through the primaries leading up to Super Tuesday. A victory over Clinton in NH would have all but sealed the deal in Nevada and the rest of the country. However, Clinton was able to take down New Hampshire, and it seems like she might have taken control of the race again. I forgot to mention anything about John Edwards, who will most likely gather anywhere between 10-20% of the vote in Nevada. He’s going to stick around until South Carolina, and if he loses there, I’m sure he’ll remove his name from contention before February 5th. I’d be interested to know which way most Edwards’ supporters are planning on going when he drops out of the race. I have a feeling it’s towards Obama. Anyway, I like rooting for the underdog, and most polls suggest Obama is trailing in Nevada, so I’ll take him and say he captures 36% of the vote. (I won’t root for the Edwards, because he’s not an underdog, he’s a statistical improbability.)

Republican voters in South Carolina also head to the polls tomorrow to cast their votes. SC is another important state as it’s the first southern-state involved in the primary process. As the “gateway” to the rest of the south, candidates realize how important the state is. McCain is leading in most polls w/around 30-35% of the vote. Huckabee and Romney are not too far behind gathering anywhere between 20-25% of support each. I think McCain takes the state, and starts to separate himself from the rest of the pack with a victory. I don’t see Huckabee winning here, and Romney is too much of a Yank to gather the support of the folks down there. I’d write more about the Republicans, but I already wrote one about them, and I want to be done typing.

Sorry this sucks. I am still learning how to write again. I’ll get the hang of it eventually.

Matt Arrowhead