Democrats concentrate on Nevada, as Obama gets major endorsements and Richardson withdraws

The Democratic race was transformed overnight and we are back to the indecision that was preceding Iowa. In less than a few hours, the Clinton campaign went from staring death in the face to finding itself stunningly victorious and the entire press corps has been searching for an answer for much of the past 24 hours. The two factors that contributed to her victory are obvious. First is her dramatic come-back among the female vote which she carried decisively. And there is no reason to credit "the tears" for that, as her debate performance had all the ingredients to put in place such a gender gap and Clinton's return to pre-Iowa levels. The second factor is the independent vote with more voting in the GOP race than expected; this accounted for some of McCain's victory. The reasons for this are probably the most confusing, and they seem to be accounted by a mixture of voters thinking Obama's win was assured and Barack's bounce eroding naturally.

As a result, Hillary Clinton is back in the game and it's hard to figure out a front-runner now. But as was expected, New Hampshire was fatal to any candidate not named Obama or Clinton. John Edwards who placed a very distant third vowed to go on, but it was obvious last Thursday that he had put all his strength in Iowa and he would have trouble to come back from his loss there. His last hope was to get the union endorsements in Nevada and make a play there, but he appears to have lost that as well (more on Nevada below).

The second victim was Bill Richardson who withdrew from the race this afternoon. This has got to be a disappointing week for Richardson, who was polling in the double-digits and rising for a while in the summer and early fall, finished Iowa with 2% of delegates and New Hampshire with 5% of the vote -- despite Biden and Dodd's withdrawal. It is also surprising that he withdrew before Nevada and its high proportion of Hispanic voters. No word yet on who he is endorsing; he had long been vying for Hillary's VP spot but he backstabbed her on January 3rd by making a (secret) deal with Obama in Iowa.

Now, the Democratic race will slow down a bit as the next contest is Nevada. Michigan, of course, is supposedly voting on January 15th, but Hillary Clinton is the only candidate on the ballot. She might actually find herself facing a test there as voters will have the choice to vote "uncommitted" and it might look bad if that gets too high a percentage. A poll today has Hillary at 48% and uncommitted at 28%, though we've got to wonder whether people will actually dare not vote for her given that she is the only Democrat that left her name on the ballot. Word is her rival campaigns are looking at whether it's worth making a push for uncommitted votes, and don't forget that Clinton is not allowed to actually go to Michigan because of the early-state pledge (which looks more than ever like an absurd joke, and I would love to see the candidates break their word in Florida).

So Nevada comes next, and Barack Obama has to be deemed the favorite there after he got two major union endorsements today. First, Obama got the support of the Nevada SEIU, which has to be a blow to Edwards since he had gotten the support of the Iowa and New Hampshire chapters. But the most important endorsement by far -- and the one watchers of the Nevada caucuses have long been looking out for -- is that of the culinary workers union, which has a stronghold on the voting machine in Clark County (Las Vegas) and which is promising to deliver thousands of votes for Obama. The endorsement had been rumored for a few days now, and the decision was apparently taken after Obama's win in Iowa.

Clinton had an answer ready today, as she unveiled the endorsement of the state's only Democratic House member, Rep. Shelley Berkley. Reports just 24 hours ago had her campaign considering conceding Nevada and South Carolina to Obama, but her stunning come back has put her back in the running in Nevada. Most polls in the state have had Clinton up big, though the last ones we have seen were taken a few weeks ago. The race has tightened considerably since then and both campaigns have sent an impressive number of staffers in Nevada since and are now running ads, including some in Spanish on radio stations.

Clinton knows that she might not be able to win South Carolina on the 26th, so Nevada is her last chance to make a stand before February 5th (though there is Florida as well, that state is out of anyone's control since all candidates have pledged to stay out). For a state that has never gotten much political attention and that just 24 hours ago thought it would be overlooked yet again, Nevada will be a major battleground in the Democratic race.

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  • Nevada is almost a do or die for Obama. If he does not win there after his NH loss, he is in very big trouble. He needs a win badly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 10 January, 2008 00:22  

  • I would not be so sure of Obama being the favorite in Nevada. It is clear that you do not know nor understand the state. Even when the Culinary Union is quite significant, almost 50% of it members are immigrants, mostly without voting rights. That plus the fact that the Hispanic community in Nevada has great antipathy for Senator Obama! That is not secret. I have live in Nevada for many years and I do not know if your assessment is correct. Careful with the predicting game. Remember New Hampshire!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 10 January, 2008 00:23  

  • I'd also give Clinton the edge in NV. Much of the voting is completely unknown, because the state is simply a nonfactor most of the time. Thus, Clinton's establishment backing could carry the day. Regardless, I don't think anyone knows what will really happen there because the state is so new to the early game.

    Nevada certainly isn't do or die for Obama though. South Carolina sets up much better for him and a split of the early contests makes the nomination attainable.

    In the end, though, it looks like Feb 5 will be the real decider.

    By Anonymous Andy, At 10 January, 2008 00:39  

  • Doesn't Michigan come first? I think Clinton is the only one left on the ballot, which gives her an advantage.

    I wonder if...

    1.) Her winning will give her a noticeable boost.
    2.) Her being the only one on the ballot will hurt her.

    3.) Anyone one will even know there was a vote there.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 10 January, 2008 02:38  


    No bounce for Hillary in SC: Obama still leads 42%-30%

    Mcain overtakes Huckabee to lead 27%-24% in South Carolina. Romney trails far behind with 16% and Thompson with 12%.

    By Anonymous Steve, At 10 January, 2008 10:42  

  • I hate to get off topic, but Roll Call has just released some very positive news for the Republicans in Congress:

    The scandal-plagued GOP Congressman John Doolittle is retiring today, strongly boosting the GOP's chances of retaining his seat.

    By Anonymous Steve, At 10 January, 2008 12:10  

  • Oh Steve, poor thing! Some people never learn. If I was Rasmussen I would lay off the polling business for a few days. How much embarrassment can a pollster endure? Two things about SC:
    1. Obama wins. Not by much. And watch that African American gap close once Bill gets to work there.
    2. Bradley effect redux.
    3. Hillary silent vote: the woman has be so badly maligned by the press, that I believe is almost fashionable for some folks to say that the don't like her or wont support her when polled on the issue. Then on election day they go and vote for her. Something to look at! It happened in her first NY senate run. On election eve there was a sense she could win, but the polls were close. Then she wins by 15 points.

    By Anonymous Robert, At 10 January, 2008 21:27  

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