Sen. Hillary Clinton won the Democratic caucuses in Nevada Saturday, gathering 51% of the vote statewide, to beat the Iowa primary winner Sen. Barack Obama by a 6% margin (a mere 582 vote difference with 98% of precincts reporting). Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, continuing to campaign with an appeal to labor, trailed with only 3% of the vote in this heavily union state.
Clinton ran strongest in urban Clark County, including Las Vegas, home to 70% of Nevada’s population. Obama beat the New York Senator, but by smaller margins, in the metro areas of Carson City and Reno.
Obama also drew more of the state’s rural voters, winning the northern Nevada counties and several more in the west. In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Obama relayed: "We're proud of the campaign we ran in Nevada. We came from over 25 points behind to win more national convention delegates than Hillary Clinton because we performed well all across the state, including rural areas where Democrats have traditionally struggled."
Obama's announcement set off some confusion on the news wires Saturday as to the apportioning of Nevada Democratic delegates. “I don’t know why they’re saying that,” the state Democratic Party president Jill Derby, told the New York Times. “We don’t select our national delegates the way they’re saying. We won’t select national delegates for a few more months.”
Indeed, the Nevada Democrats use a protracted system. First, there’s a complex formula requiring that groups of voters must reach a certain minimum size to be counted at all (a la New Hampshire). Derby further explained that the Jan. 19 caucus determined Democratic delegates only to Nevada’s county conventions in April ““ not the national, as Obama had said. (Find more on the process here.)
Sen. Clinton drew stronger support within the state Democratic party, also among women and Hispanics. An AP entrance poll determined that Hispanics voted 2-1 for Clinton. A Zogby poll conducted Jan. 15-17 showed "Obama leads among African Americans 81 to 16 percent, while Clinton leads among whites 46 to 31 percent."
While Sen. Clinton picked up endorsements from the teachers’ union and other more white-collar labor groups, Obama had been endorsed by the 60,000 member Culinary Workers Union. Nine special at-large caucus sites were arranged along the Las Vegas strip to make participation easier for these and other Las Vegas downtowners. Clinton’s campaign unsuccessfully challenged these special sites, claiming they gave Obama an unfair advantage, but in fact those who turned out at the nine special caucus locations Saturday split evenly between Obama and Clinton.
Only in Nevada…AP reported that in two small towns the caucuses were tied between Clinton and Obama and came down to "a draw of cards." In Genoa, "A Clinton backer drew a five. An Obama supporter pulled out a king. The crowd whooped. Obama earned two delegates, while Clinton got one."
The same in Zephyr Cove, on Lake Tahoe. Clinton's supporter drew a five and was beaten by an Obama nine.
The Republicans held caucuses Saturday, too. Check the state GOP site to learn more about Mitt Romney's full house. The former governor of Massachusetts won 51% of the vote; Ron Paul came in a distant second with 14%.