Democratic Candidates Target Economy in Nevada

Did You Know?

• Nevada is the first primary or caucus state with a sizable number of Hispanic voters.

• Only Nevada caucus-goers registered with a party can participate. Absentee ballots are not accepted. Nevada's caucuses will begin Saturday morning and are expected to last several hours.

• Nine hotels and casinos have been designated as Democratic caucus sites, in a move aimed at making it easier for casino workers to participate. The state Democratic Party let the culinary workers' union, which has endorsed Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, choose the sites. But that decision has been challenged in court by the state teacher's union, which argues that the sites unfairly favor Obama.

Nevada differs in several ways from the contests that have come before, in Iowa and New Hampshire. The state is a lot less "white" for one thing, a point made by Ugly Betty star America Ferrara during a Tuesday rally for Hillary Clinton at a Las Vegas high school.

"The minorities in this country, the Latinos in this country, the African-Americans in this country are ready to be heard," Ferrara said.

Nevada is also struggling economically, with the nation's highest home foreclosure rate and higher-than-average unemployment numbers. Clinton and the other Democrats have offered up proposals to stimulate the economy.

"You know we are going to restore the middle class, and that begins by having an economy that works for everyone — not just the wealthy and the well-connected, who have been very well taken care of by George Bush," Clinton said.

Nevada also has a higher proportion of union members than either Iowa or New Hampshire. Those unions could play a big role in getting people out to the caucuses on Saturday. Barack Obama scored the endorsement of the state's biggest union, the Culinary Workers Union, which represents many casino employees. There were many union members in attendance Wednesday morning when Obama held a town hall meeting just outside of Las Vegas.

"What a healthy, vibrant union movement does is gives employers an incentive — even if they don't have a unionized work force — to pay decent wages, to provide decent benefits. That's very important," Obama said.

Like Clinton, Obama has called for tens of billions of dollars in economic stimulus for the economy. He says he has heard personally from Nevada residents at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. He blames lax federal oversight for allowing the mortgage crunch to get out of hand.

"We've got to have an advocate who recognizes that the American dream is for all people, not just some people. That's why I'm running for President of the United States of America," he said.

John Edwards holds his own town hall meeting tonight at a Las Vegas union headquarters. Nevada could be a chance for John Edwards to show it's still a three-person race among the Democrats. The latest poll by the Reno Gazette-Journal shows Edwards, Clinton and Obama in a statistical dead heat.

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