NPR logo Wyoming Democrats Briefly Hold Clout

Election 2008

Wyoming Democrats Briefly Hold Clout

Hillary Clinton i

Sen. Hillary Clinton chats with journalists as she boards her plane in Laurel, Miss., on Friday. Clinton was on her way to Wyoming for more campaigning. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Hillary Clinton

Sen. Hillary Clinton chats with journalists as she boards her plane in Laurel, Miss., on Friday. Clinton was on her way to Wyoming for more campaigning.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Wyoming landscape i

Wyoming-- one of the least populous states in the country-- is holding its Democratic caucuses on Saturday. Getty Images hide caption

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Wyoming landscape

Wyoming-- one of the least populous states in the country-- is holding its Democratic caucuses on Saturday.

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Barack Obama i

Sen. Barack Obama pays a visit to Johnny J's Dinner in Casper, Wyo., on Friday. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Barack Obama

Sen. Barack Obama pays a visit to Johnny J's Dinner in Casper, Wyo., on Friday.

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Wyoming is getting something that it is not accustomed to — visibility, if fleeting, on the national Democratic political scene.

State Democrats hold their caucuses on Saturday, where 12 delegates are at stake. That amounts to one-third of 1 percent of the nationwide delegate total.

And, with no polling done in Wyoming, it is impossible to know which candidate will emerge victorious. Obama has won all of the other caucus contests, except Nevada.

Amid this ambiguity, both New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama are making 48-hour, whirlwind campaign stops across sprawling Wyoming. Both have opened campaign offices and held several rallies and town halls on Friday. To reach Wyoming's 60,000 registered Democrats, Clinton is running 60-second radio ads, while Obama has launched both radio and TV spots.

Among the issues important to Wyoming Democrats' is gun rights, says Kathy Karpan, a Clinton supporter who formerly served as Wyoming's Democratic secretary of state. They also want to know that the candidates will protect wildlife areas, she says, while still supporting the booming local gas and coal industries.

Even with such a small number of delegates up for grabs, the campaigns see Wyoming as an important state.

"In the grand scheme of things, Wyoming factors in for us," said Obama spokesman Matt Chandler. "We take it very seriously."

Clinton spokesman Blake Zeff said campaign volunteers are reaching out. "We're going to be harnessing that enthusiasm to really bring out the vote," he said.

If Wyoming Democrats are not used to all this attention, it is primarily because they are the political minority in a state where Republicans outnumber them 2-to-1. Wyoming re-elected popular Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal in 2006. He is also a superdelegate. Freudenthal has not endorsed either candidate because he says neither one has addressed Western issues in any depth.

The last time Wyoming Democrats felt this politically important was in 1960. That year, at the Democratic National Convention, the state's delegation cast 15 votes that pushed Sen. John F. Kennedy over the top and made him the party's nominee for president.

From NPR staff reports and the Associated Press

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