Clin­ton hopes to pass a course she flunked in 2008: Ne­vada’s spe­cial cau­cus math

The Clin­ton cam­paign works to score del­e­gates in ru­ral Ne­vada “There’s a lot of im­por­tant vot­ers out there”

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS -

In the days be­fore the New Hamp­shire pri­mary, Tom Perez, the U.S. sec­re­tary of la­bor, went out to stump for Hil­lary Clin­ton in Ne­vada, where the Feb. 20 cau­cus is the next big event on the Demo­cratic cir­cuit. Be­fore stop­ping in Las Ve­gas, the state’s largest city, Perez headed to the un­in­cor­po­rated town of Pahrump, along the Cal­i­for­nia bor­der. “When I talked to Hil­lary, she said, ‘Make sure you get out to Pahrump, be­cause there’s a lot of good peo­ple out there, and there’s a lot of im­por­tant vot­ers out there,’ ” he told a crowd of 30 vol­un­teers gath­ered at the lo­cal cam­paign of­fice.

A few days later, Perez was fol­lowed by an even more pow­er­ful cam­paign sur­ro­gate: Bill Clin­ton. Pahrump, pop­u­la­tion 36,000, can ex­pect to get a lot more love be­tween now and the vote. It’s home to most of the res­i­dents of

sprawl­ing Nye County, the largest in the state. The cam­paign, Perez said af­ter his ap­pear­ance, is fol­low­ing an “ev­ery county” strat­egy and push­ing well be­yond Las Ve­gas and Reno into less pop­u­lated ar­eas of the state. “I’m here to send a very, very clear sig­nal to the res­i­dents of Pahrump that Hil­lary Clin­ton wants to hear their con­cerns and takes them se­ri­ously.”

That de­lights Will Blythe, an un­em­ployed con­struc­tion worker who didn’t cau­cus in 2008 be­cause he mis­tak­enly thought it re­quired driv­ing to Las Ve­gas. This time around he’s not just plan­ning to cau­cus for Clin­ton but also vol­un­teer­ing for her cam­paign, along with his wife, who had can­cer de­tected and treated af­ter she got in­sur­ance un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act. “We al­most feel like we owe Obama our life,” Blythe says.

Af­ter los­ing the New Hamp­shire pri­mary to Bernie San­ders, Clin­ton is count­ing on Ne­vada to de­liver her a de­ci­sive vic­tory. In 2008 she won the Ne­vada cau­cus by 602 votes over Barack Obama, but Obama net­ted more del­e­gates be­cause of the state’s cau­cus math, which gives Demo­cratic vot­ers in Ne­vada’s ru­ral precincts ex­tra weight, re­ward­ing can­di­dates who ven­ture into the desert look­ing for sup­port. “We didn’t win,” says Emmy Ruiz, the first Ne­vada or­ga­nizer Clin­ton hired in the 2008 race and now head of her cam­paign there. “I think that’s part of what in­formed our strat­egy here and part of why it’s so im­por­tant to build that or­ga­ni­za­tion.” This year precincts in coun­ties with 400 or fewer Democrats will get one del­e­gate for ev­ery five reg­is­tered Democrats; those in coun­ties with more than 4,000 reg­is­tered party mem­bers will get one del­e­gate for ev­ery 50 reg­is­tered Democrats. “Let’s say our op­po­nent had 10,000 more sup­port­ers than we did come cau­cus day,” says Ruiz, “but they were all in the same two precincts—doesn’t mat­ter, we would win ev­ery­thing in a land­slide.”

Clin­ton’s op­er­a­tion re­lies heav­ily on vol­un­teers, as it did in 2008 in Ne­vada, where her cam­paign was man­aged by Robby Mook, now in charge of Clin­ton’s na­tional cam­paign. Mook is a vet­eran of Howard Dean’s 2004 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, which adopted or­ga­niz­ing tac­tics from Mar­shall Ganz, a long­time United Farm Work­ers strate­gist. “Part of what we learned is that you can have an or­ga­ni­za­tion that vests real re­spon­si­bil­ity with vol­un­teers and holds them ac­count­able and is as­pi­ra­tional in the very way that it’s or­ga­niz­ing it­self,” says Karen Hicks, who over­saw Dean’s New Hamp­shire cam­paign, where Mook worked, and joined Clin­ton in 2007 as an ad­viser. “On the Obama cam­paign they did it to scale in 2008, as we did in pock­ets on the Clin­ton cam­paign.”

Ruiz worked along­side Mook that year and is us­ing the same ap­proach now. At twice-weekly Span­ish-lan­guage phone banks at the Clin­ton cam­paign’s East Las Ve­gas of­fice, vol­un­teers are re­spon­si­ble not only for plac­ing calls but also for re­cruit­ing friends to join the op­er­a­tion, then re­mind­ing them to show up—a form of peer pres­sure that’s more ef­fec­tive than hear­ing the same mes­sage from paid staffers. “I don’t even have to be there,” says Clin­ton staff mem­ber Natalie Mon­te­longo, who man­ages about two dozen vol­un­teers.

Kavin Burkhal­ter, who works in retail sales, says he spends so much time work­ing for the Clin­ton cam­paign in Las Ve­gas that his part­ner and co­work­ers call it his “free job.” He rou­tinely puts in 20 to 30 hours a week and has signed up a half-dozen friends to vol­un­teer since the for­mer sec­re­tary of state for­mally an­nounced her can­di­dacy last April. “I went to her very first town hall here and barely got a selfie with me and her 25 feet away, and that was my most prized pic­ture in the world,” Burkhal­ter says.

Clin­ton has an ad­van­tage over San­ders, who didn’t set up shop in the state un­til Oc­to­ber. “The Clin­ton peo­ple have been here longer, and they’ve hired folks who were here in 2008,” says Yvanna Can­cela, political di­rec­tor for Unite Here! Lo­cal 226, which rep­re­sents Las Ve­gas ho­tel and casino work­ers. (The union has re­mained neu­tral.) But, she cau­tions, “While I think she has an ad­van­tage, I also think noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble here.”

Joan Kato, San­ders’s Ne­vada di­rec­tor, says the fer­vor of his vol­un­teers will help close the or­ga­ni­za­tion gap. “They’re the blood,” she says. “We’re the veins that help move the blood to the heart.” Kato says San­ders vol­un­teers have been in­volved in ad­min­is­tra­tive minu­tiae such as scout­ing for of­fice space and in or­ga­niz­ing con­certs and marches to raise aware­ness of San­ders’s cam­paign. But even some of the Ver­mont sen­a­tor’s big­gest sup­port­ers doubt he can match Clin­ton’s

or­ga­ni­za­tion in time for the cau­cuses. That in­cludes Tick Segerblom, the only cur­rent Ne­vada leg­is­la­tor who’s en­dorsed San­ders: “To win Ne­vada, he needs peo­ple that just come out of the blue.” −Josh Eidel­son

The bot­tom line Af­ter los­ing in New Hamp­shire, Hil­lary Clin­ton is count­ing on her or­ga­niz­ers in Ne­vada to de­liver her first clear-cut vic­tory.

Bill Clin­ton cam­paign­ing for Hil­lary in Pahrump, Nev., on Feb. 6

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.