Hillary Clinton Turns to Nevada for Votes

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton makes her first big swing through Nevada, which holds caucuses next week. Now that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has dropped out of the race, Clinton has set her sights on Nevada's large number of Hispanic voters.

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Hillary Clinton picked Nevada for her first public appearance since winning the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. Nevada holds its caucuses a week from tomorrow. It is the next big task for Democratic candidates and the first state to hold a contest in the West. The state was also thought to be a major target of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He's Hispanic and he'd hoped to make inroads with the Nevada's large Hispanic population. But Richardson withdrew from the race yesterday. Maybe it's no coincidence that Clinton began her swing through Nevada in a Latino neighborhood in Las Vegas before heading to a local Mexican restaurant.

NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN: In this year of compressed primaries and caucuses, Hillary Clinton didn't have much time to savor her New Hampshire victory. Late Thursday afternoon she was greeting residents and posing for pictures in the low-income Latino neighborhood North Las Vegas.

Unidentified Man #1: (Spanish spoken) Hillary Clinton.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): Hello. I'm very glad to see you.

Unidentified Man #2: (Spanish spoken)

KAHN: The sun have long set by the time she made it to Gilberto Santana's living room, as his four-year-old daughter sucked her thumb and twiddled with Clinton's beaded bracelet. Santana talked about everything from Social Security to the war in Iraq. He ended his chat by asking Clinton what she was going to do about the 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Mr. GILBERTO SANTANA: Are we going to be able to get them legalized in a way so they can work and they won't have to have that fear of then, of...

Sen. CLINTON: I'm going to do everything I can to have comprehensive immigration reform. You know, we do have to have, you know, good security at our borders.

Mr. SANTANA: Definitely.

Sen. CLINTON: We know that. And I think we should have - give people a chance - the chance to come out of the shadows, so to speak.

KAHN: Flanked by some of Nevada's prominent Latino officials, Clinton said she is confident of a win. And she said she was very proud of the support she has, showing little concern about the news of the day - that Barack Obama had picked up the endorsement of the last Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry, who made the announcement in South Carolina.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts): Who better than Barack Obama to turn a new page in American politics so that Democrat, independent and Republican alike can look to leadership that unites to find a common ground.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Sen. KERRY: That's what this is about.

KAHN: It was one of two big endorsements for Obama; the other came from Nevada's largest and best organized labor group, the Culinary Workers Union, which represents employees in the casino industry.

In Las Vegas, a union official chided the mostly white electorate from New Hampshire, where Obama trailed Hillary Clinton. He said in Nevada there is more than just Wonder Bread; there is pumpernickel, whole wheat and rye. Not to be deterred, Clinton went courting tortillas.

Unidentified Woman #1: The next president of the United States.

(Soundbite of cheering)

KAHN: At a local Mexican restaurant, Clinton munched on tortilla chips and listened to stories about the state's troubled economy, made worse by the growing number of foreclosures, the highest in the nation.

Sen. CLINTON: Everything is connected. You know, we're all connected and all of our problems are interconnected. And yet we treat them as though, you know, one is guacamole and one is chips. Well, you know, they're - they're - they may look different, but they're all connected.

KAHN: Clinton says she wants a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures and plans to introduce a stimulus package to boost the economy. She was short on details, but promised more today in a speech in Los Angeles.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Las Vegas.

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