Election 2008

Clinton, Romney Sweep Nevada Caucuses

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Nevada caucus-goers turned out in record numbers, giving Sen. Hillary Clinton a six percentage point advantage over Sen. Barack Obama following fierce campaigning from both competitors. Former Gov. Mitt Romney won for the Republicans, thanks to Mormons and Hispanics.


There were three winners in the Nevada caucuses: Hillary Clinton for the Democrats, Mitt Romney for the Republicans and the state of Nevada. The first-ever January caucuses there resulted in a record turnout.

More from NPR's Ina Jaffe.

INA JAFFE: On the Democratic side, this was a tough, sometimes-nasty campaign. And while Hillary Clinton was jubilant in victory, the strain could be heard in her voice.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Democratic Presidential Candidate): I guess this is how the West was won.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

JAFFE: Clinton won the support of nearly 51 percent of Democratic caucus-goers. Barack Obama received just over 45 percent. John Edwards was a very distant third with less than 4 percent. As in all speeches of this type, Clinton thanked the supporters who worked so hard for her.

Sen. CLINTON: And I am particularly grateful to all of the members of the Culinary Union who stood with me today.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

JAFFE: The members of the powerful culinary workers merited special mention because their union had endorsed Barack Obama. That seemed to give him an advantage, especially because there were nine special caucus sites on the Las Vegas strip where the union's members work.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting)

Unidentified Group #1: Obama. Obama. Obama. Obama. Obama. Obama.

JAFFE: But at the caucus at the Wynn Hotel yesterday, there were slightly more Clinton backers than Obama supporters.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting)

Unidentified Group #2: Hillary. Hillary. Hillary. Hillary.

JAFFE: The Clinton and Obama supporters tried to shout each other down, mirroring the punch and counterpunch battle between the two campaigns here.

Cynthia Garcia, a Clinton supporter, said she'd witnessed some of her co-workers being deceived and intimidated by union organizers.

Ms. CYNTHIA GARCIA (Hillary Clinton Supporter): Yeah, they were telling them they had to vote for Obama. They are basically hoodwinking them, you know what I mean? They weren't letting them know that they had a choice. They were telling them that this is who you're going to vote for.

JAFFE: The Clinton campaign said they'd heard many such reports. And the Obama campaign returned fire. In a conference call with reporters, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said they'd uncovered a number of election irregularities.

Mr. DAVID PLOUFFE (Campaign Manager, Barack Obama Campaign): There's been a lot of reports of issues today - caucus sites being closed a half hour early, people not being able to register to vote because registration forms had run out. So we want to get to the bottom of that and we'll decide with what to do with that once we've a full review of that.

JAFFE: Obama himself released only a written statement on the outcome, saying, in part, we ran an honest, uplifting campaign in Nevada that focused on the real problems Americans are facing, a campaign that appeal to people's hopes instead of their fears.

And Obama may have done better in Nevada than the numbers suggest. Because of the peculiar math of the caucuses system, he could end up with one more delegate than Clinton.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney won overwhelmingly. He had the support of 51 percent of Republican caucus-goers.

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Republican Governor, Arkansas; Republican Presidential Candidate): It's huge for us and we're very, very pleased.

JAFFE: In a distant second place was Ron Paul with just 14 percent. Romney's fortunes got a boost from Nevada's sizable Mormon population; they counted for about half of his support. But he said his Nevada victory was also due to the backing of evangelicals and Hispanics.

Mr. ROMNEY: And I expect that this campaign will cross ethnic and religious and gender lines and will generate the support that I need to win the nomination.

JAFFE: But the count that may be getting the most attention in Nevada is the head count of people who attended the caucuses. This is the first time that Nevada has been one of the early states with a real chance to influence the nominations. And people in both parties responded in force. Forty-three thousand Republicans caucused, more than party officials expected. And about 116,000 Democrats turned out - their old record was 9,000.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Las Vegas.

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