Go West, White House hope­fuls: Democrats to take Ne­vada de­tour

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Don­ald Lam­bro

The Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial pri­mary sea­son that tra­di­tion­ally comes roar­ing out of the Iowa corn fields into snowy New Hamp­shire will take a mid­course de­tour through Ne­vada to give the West an early role in pick­ing their 2008 nom­i­nee.

But po­lit­i­cal tra­di­tion dies hard, and most of the at­ten­tion so far has been on Iowa (Jan. 14) and New Hamp­shire (Jan. 22), though Ne­vada Demo­cratic lead­ers say they are work­ing to pro­mote their Jan. 19 cau­cuses to the press and pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls, some of whom have cam­paigned in the state in the hope of throw­ing a mon­key wrench into the plans of front-run­ners.

Ne­vada Demo­cratic Chair­man Tom Collins says his state’s cau­cuses have two big things go­ing for it: “a di­verse elec­torate that con­tains a large Latino mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tion and an op­por­tu­nity for the can­di­dates to pitch their mes­sage in the neigh­bor­ing West­ern states like Ari­zona, New Mex­ico, Utah, Wy­oming and Mon­tana.”

Ne­vada, one of the fastest grow­ing states in the coun­try, has an­other thing go­ing for it, a strong la­bor union mem­ber­ship that is one of his Democrats’ ma­jor con­stituen­cies, Mr. Collins said.

“We’re a pro­gres­sive state, but we’re also a mod­er­ate state,” he said, un­der­scor­ing the state’s deep po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions, not­ing that “Bill Clin­ton won Ne­vada” in 1992 and 1996. Pres­i­dent Bush car­ried the state in 2000 and 2004.

No­tably, New York Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, the party’s front- run­ner, has not been out to Ne­vada yet, nor has Illi­nois Sen. Barack Obama, said Kirsten Searer, a spokesman for the Ne­vada Demo­cratic Party.

But she noted that Iowa Gov. Tom Vil­sack came to the state when he an­nounced his can­di­dacy as has Sen. John Kerry.

Two other pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls have made sev­eral trips out there this year. New Mex­ico Gov. Bill Richard­son, whose His­panic her­itage would help with the state’s more than 20 per­cent His­panic pop­u­la­tion, and for­mer North Carolina Sen. John Ed­wards, the party’s 2004 vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, who has been court­ing la­bor unions drawn to his mes­sage of eco­nomic pop­ulism.

In a show of strength for Mr. Richard­son, 70 prom­i­nent Ne­vada Democrats, mostly His­pan­ics, on Dec. 21 called on the for­mer U.N. am­bas­sador and en­ergy sec­re­tary to for­mally an­nounce his can­di­dacy.

“Ne­vada will be the linch­pin in the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion process in 2008 and many Ne­vadans be­lieve Bill Richard­son is the best choice to lead our party,” said Rey­naldo Martinez, chair­man of the Draft Bill Richard­son Com­mit­tee.

Strate­gists for Mr. Ed­wards, who has built a strong ground cam­paign in Iowa since his sec­ond­place show­ing there in the 2004 pres­i­den­tial cau­cuses, say that a win there fol­lowed by a vic­tory in Ne­vada would send him into New Hamp­shire three days later with con­sid­er­able mo­men­tum.

The tra­di­tional Iowa-New Hamp­shire kick­off was bro­ken up by the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee ear­lier this year in an at­tempt to open up the early del­e­gate-se­lec­tion process to other con­stituen­cies of the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly the West, a re­gion that Repub­li­cans have largely dom­i­nated in past pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

Al­though Ne­vada has only five elec­toral votes and one of the smaller nom­i­nat­ing del­e­ga­tions, it now looms as the sec­ond pres­i­den­tial con­test in a faster, front­loaded pres­i­den­tial se­lec­tion process that will likely wrap up the nom­i­na­tion by the end of Fe­bru­ary or early March.

“It isn’t well-known now, but by 2008 [Ne­vada] could be one of the piv­otal events in the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nat­ing cam­paign,” a Demo­cratic of­fi­cial said.

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