Election 2008

Checking in with South Carolina, Nevada

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This week, we've been checking in on states whose primaries or caucuses are coming up in the next few weeks. Friday we talk with Leroy Chapman, governance editor of The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., and to Molly Ball, a political reporter for the Las Vegas Review Journal.


More on presidential politics now. All week, we've been checking in with journalists in the states that have early primaries or caucuses. Today, Nevada and South Carolina.

And joining us first from Columbia, South Carolina is Leroy Chapman, who is the governance editor for The State - it's a daily paper in Columbia.

And welcome to the program.

Mr. LEROY CHAPMAN (Governance Editor, The State): Thank you.

SIEGEL: And first, we should explain, the Republicans have a primary on January 19th in South Carolina and the Democrats go a week later. Yes?

Mr. CHAPMAN: Yes, that's correct.

SIEGEL: So in the Republican primary, who appears to be - they're spending a lot of time there or doing pretty well there?

Mr. CHAPMAN: Mike Huckabee has been doing extraordinarily well here and considering the amount of time he spent here, which is not a lot compared to some of his competitors. He did not work the state, I guess, very early the Romney did, does not have the campaign operation and the high dollar campaign team, those experts who - the campaigns sort of locked up very early. So Huckabee is doing very well. Romney is still doing well. Thompson is doing well, but fading. But if you looked at the five candidates, the latest polling sometimes have them all bunched together with the top three being Thompson, Romney and Huckabee.

SIEGEL: Do you have any sense of - as Huckabee has risen in South Carolina, at whose expense his risen or is it just a lot of undecideds coming to his camp?

Mr. CHAPMAN: I think it's a mix. I think it's some undecided. But I also think Romney's lost a little bit, compared with Huckabee's rise. He's the guy who had the most to lose. He courted a lot of the religious conservatives that Huckabee now has won over. And Huckabee is now on radio. He's doing some advertising. He's spending money here. He is building himself as a Christian leader. So I think Romney is the guy who loses the most with Huckabee's surge.

SIEGEL: Now, for the Democrats - the interesting thing about South Carolina is that while it's a state that they very unlikely to carry in November, it's the first time that a sizable African-American electorate will take part in the candidates election process, unlike Iowa and New Hampshire. Who's doing well there?

Mr. CHAPMAN: Obama is actually surging. He had been behind Hillary Clinton, who is still leading, but they are really in a statistical tie. John Edwards is lurking. But the race, really, is between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who began surging after the big Oprah visit to Williams-Brice Stadium, where they drew 30,000 people. So he is surging. But Hillary Clinton, she did lock up a lot of Democrats very early. And I think it's anybody's race between those two.

SIEGEL: Well, Leroy Chapman of The State in Columbia, South Carolina, thank you very much.

Mr. CHAPMAN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: And on to Nevada, where both parties will have presidential caucuses on January 19th and where Molly Ball is a political reporter for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Welcome back.

Ms. MOLLY BALL (Political Reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal): Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: And first, to Democrats. How does the race look in Nevada?

Ms. BALL: Well, every time we've done polling statewide in Nevada, Hillary Clinton has had a huge lead as much as nearly 40 points. But just as we've seen the race tightening, and Clinton even losing her lead in some other states, it seem to tighten just a little bit here. And it's really an open question whether that support for her was always quite soft or whether she really has built up, as her campaign claims, a very solid and robust campaign infrastructure here in the state.

SIEGEL: My impression of a Democratic primary or caucus in Nevada is, couple of people saying, I am more against dumping nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain than you are.

Ms. BALL: Well, that sort of true. I mean, that's true to the extent that people go to Iowa and say, I'm more for ethanol than the next guy. That's out little parochial issue. But when I talk to voters here and when we do polling here, they're concerned about the same things that voters, especially partisan-based voters, are everywhere else, which is the war, health care, immigration and on down from there.

SIEGEL: And subprime mortgages are particular problem, I gather, in Nevada.

Ms. BALL: They are. We have the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. It has been as high as one foreclosure for every 60 homes. And that is a result to having had the meteoric growth. We just regained our number one status as the fastest growing state in the nation, which we previously were for 19 years. And we basically had the biggest housing bubble in the nation, and that led to the biggest housing bubble bursting in the nation, which is what we're experiencing right now.

SIEGEL: Now, in the Republican camp - is there any Republican campaigning? And if so, who's doing well out there?

Ms. BALL: Well, those are two different questions, actually. The Republicans who are campaigning here, mostly Mitt Romney. The candidates' been here, but more importantly, he has hired staff here. The other candidate who's hired staff here is Ron Paul. And it does seem that his libertarian message resonates here. This is, you know, they're Western Republicans. We've never really had abortion, those kinds of social issues register in Republican politics out here. It's much more about, you know, get off my lawn. Leave me alone.

Now, that being said, the polls are all over the place. I don't think we've ever seen a Republican candidate get more than 25 percent in a poll. And different candidates have been ahead at different times. And like, nationally, I think you see a Republican electorate that's very confused, looking for a raft to hang on to in these very uncertain seas.

SIEGEL: Molly Ball, political reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, thanks a lot.

Ms. BALL: Thank you.

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