Nevada Puts the Latino Vote in Sharp Relief

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As the presidential campaign moves to Nevada, the battle for Latino voters is heating up. What are the campaigns doing to win votes in this growing demographic?

Guests:

Paul Taylor, acting director of Pew Hispanic Center

Luis Clemens, editor of candidatousa.com, an online newsletter about Latino politics

What's at Stake in the Nevada Caucuses?

Democrats greet dignitaries before a debate in Las Vegas. i i

Democratic Presidential hopefuls (from left) Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) greet dignitaries before the start of a Democratic Presidential debate at Cashman Center in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Ethan Miller/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Democrats greet dignitaries before a debate in Las Vegas.

Democratic Presidential hopefuls (from left) Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) greet dignitaries before the start of a Democratic Presidential debate at Cashman Center in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Did You Know?

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

• Only 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 is the first Western state to hold caucuses for both parties, but Saturday's event has become more of a Democratic affair. Sens. Barack Obama (IL) and Hillary Clinton (NY) compete in the Silver State having each won a victory in an early voting contest. They, as well as former Sen. John Edwards (NC), are looking for a win in Nevada to give them a boost going into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

Though Nevada Republicans are also caucusing that day, the GOP presidential candidates have largely chosen to focus their efforts in South Carolina, whose same-day primary has long been seen as determinative in the race for the Republican nomination.

Here's a guide to what's at stake for the candidates in Nevada's Jan. 19 caucuses, and the issues that will be on voters' minds.

DEMOCRATS

Candidates: Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY); former Sen. John Edwards (NC); former Sen. Mike Gravel (AK); Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH); Sen. Barack Obama (IL)

What's at Stake: Clinton had a double-digit lead in the polls back in December, but Nevada's largest union of culinary workers (which has roughly 60,000 members) has endorsed Obama. A recent poll of 500 Democratic and Republican voters, sponsored by the Reno Gazette-Journal shows Clinton, Edwards and Obama in a statistical dead heat: Obama with 32 percent, Clinton with 30 percent and Edwards with 27 percent.

All of the candidates will fight over the Hispanic vote. Latinos make up 25 percent of the state's population, although only half of them can vote due to age or immigration status. The withdrawal of Gov. Bill Richardson (NM) from the race has only increased the remaining Democrats' efforts to woo Spanish-speaking voters. Nevada has hosted two Democratic debates, one in November and one on Jan. 15.

The Issues: As with most states, the Iraq war, immigration and the economy are major issues in Nevada. As a Western state, water, environmental and energy rights also come into play. Nevada has not been as hard-hit as other early-voting states, such as Michigan and South Carolina, in terms of unemployment — the booming casino businesses employs many residents — but it does have the highest rate of home foreclosures in the country.

REPUBLICANS

Candidates: Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (NY); former Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR); Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA); Sen. John McCain (AZ); Rep. Ron Paul (TX); former Gov. Mitt Romney (MA); former Sen. Fred Thompson (TN)

What's at Stake: Unlike the Democrats, the Republican candidates have never expended much effort in the state. A poll sponsored by the Reno-Gazette Journal shows the GOP candidates locked in a close contest.

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