Nevada Next Battleground for Clinton, Obama

Correction Jan. 19, 2008

When this story was first published on Saturday, Jan. 12, on npr.org, it included an inaccurate headline. The headline said John Edwards had dropped out of the Democratic caucuses in Nevada. This was not true. He had not dropped out. The broadcast version of the story reported that Edwards was concentrating his resources on South Carolina, his birth state and a more important part of his strategy, leaving Nevada essentially a two-person race. Subsequently, Edwards added more events to his schedule in Nevada.

The next test for the Democrats is in Nevada, which holds caucuses a week from Saturday. A lack of money has led John Edwards to focus his efforts in South Carolina, leaving the contest to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

The next test for Democrats is Nevada - holds caucuses a week from today. There, it's essentially a two-person race. John Edwards, who came in second in Iowa and third in New Hampshire, is short on money, focusing his attention on South Carolina. That leaves Nevada to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who campaigned there all week long.

NPR's Carrie Kahn has been following them around Las Vegas.

CARRIE KAHN: The line to get into Barack Obama's town hall meeting at Del Sol High School last night snaked through the expanse of parking lot out to the street and around the corner. Many had waited hours to see him, but by the time Obama arrived, it was clear not everyone was going to fit into the school's gym.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Democratic Presidential Candidate): If you could not get in today, I don't want you to think that you are not precious to this campaign. We need you caucusing for us. We need you standing up for us.

KAHN: Obama stood on an improvised stage, and gave those who weren't getting in the "Reader's Digest" version of this familiar time-for-a-change speech. Despite its brevity, Mary Ann Lynn(ph) said the Obama speech got her to switch her allegiance from Hillary Clinton.

Ms. MARY ANN LYNN (Resident, Nevada): I have thought about it for a while and I've changed my mind. Yeah. Right now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KAHN: Right now, you've changed your mind?

Ms. LYNN: I changed my mind, and this is definitely right now, why we have to do it.

KAHN: This was Obama's first appearance in this state since placing second in New Hampshire. Mindful of Nevada's new prominence in the condensed primary season, Obama has been racking up endorsements here from major labor unions to yesterday's nod from Arizona's Democratic governor.

Sen. OBAMA: And since I'm in Las Vegas, I just want you to know that I hit the jackpot. My bet is paying off because America is ready for change. They are responding all across this nation. They're ready for something new.

KAHN: Talking for more than an hour and taking questions, Obama touched on everything, from pulling the troops from Iraq to raising teachers' salaries and demanding higher fuel standards from domestic cars.

Sen. OBAMA: There is nothing we cannot do. If you decide you want change, we will have change. Yes, we can.

Unidentified Group: (Spanish spoken)

KAHN: The message was in Spanish, but the same at the Culinary Workers union hall across town where Obama formally picked up his endorsement from the prominent labor group.

Sen. OBAMA: We're going to show America that what happens in Vegas is not going to stay in Vegas anymore.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

KAHN: Obama stressed his experience as an organizer in Chicago in his humble working-class roots. But the Illinois senator wasn't the only one trying to show a humbler side in Nevada. After canvassing a Latino neighborhood in North Las Vegas, Thursday night, Hillary Clinton is now running ads in Nevada, showing off her new softer side after that misty moment in New Hampshire.

(Soundbite of Hillary Clinton ad)

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Democratic Presidential Candidate): Over the last week, I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice. You helped remind everyone that politics isn't a game.

Unidentified Group: Hillary, Hillary, Hillary...

Sen. CLINTON: Thank you.

KAHN: Yesterday, Clinton showed off that new voice at a rally near Los Angeles. She proposed an economic stimulus package for the country, and took questions at length from the audience about soaring energy costs, which the New York senator said would be fixed once she replace the current occupants in the White House.

Sen. CLINTON: So we're not going to make progress on a lot of these tough issues until we realize that we've got to get the two oilmen out of the White House and begin to change direction.

(Soundbite of cheering crowd)

KAHN: Clinton heads back to Nevada today with stops in Reno and Las Vegas.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Las Vegas.

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