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Sen. Barack Obama poses with University of Wyoming mascot Pistol Pete prior to entering a campaign rally in Laramie, Wyoming, on Friday, March 7.
Sen. Barack Obama poses with University of Wyoming mascot Pistol Pete prior to entering a campaign rally in Laramie, Wyoming, on Friday, March 7. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images
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Sen. Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event at the Casper College Auxiliary Gym in Casper, Wyoming, on Friday, March 7.
Sen. Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event at the Casper College Auxiliary Gym in Casper, Wyoming, on Friday, March 7. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Wyoming Democrats have delivered another win to Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.
Only 12 delegates to the national convention were at stake in Saturday's caucuses, but Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York — locked in a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination — fought hard for them.
Obama won the most votes, but the 12 delegates will be assigned proportionately. For now, it appears Obama will win 7 delegates, Clinton 5. The precise number for each candidate will not be confirmed until after the party holds a statewide convention in late May.
Both candidates held multiple rallies in the last week. The excitement that created among Democrats translated into record participation in the caucuses.
In Laramie County, the local Democratic Party predicted about 500 people would show up, so officials rented the largest space in Cheyenne — a theater at the Civic Center. But that wasn't big enough for the 1,500 people who lined up around the block to get in.
"We didn't know what to expect," said Don Millin, chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party. "I mean, it's like being told a hurricane is coming — you don't really know how big it's going to be or how bad it's going to be ... until it actually happens and then you say, 'Oh my God, this is it!'"
Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal had been critical of fellow Democrats Clinton and Obama for not paying more attention to the West. Several times in the last few months he said he didn't like any of the candidates running.
But with such a close national race and visits to Wyoming by the candidates on the eve of the caucuses, Freudenthal conceded that a lot of interest was generated.
"People understand that instead of it being kind of a ceremonial act to go to a caucus, it now matters," Freudenthal said.
The candidates also ran campaign ads on TV and radio around the state. That's unusual for a presidential primary race in Wyoming.
On Friday, Clinton released a radio ad that focused on renewable energy — an important issue in coal-rich and blustery, wind-swept Wyoming.
"And Hillary understands that to harness the power of the wind, we need to develop the transmission lines to bring that power from our plains to urban areas," the ad read in part.
On Friday, Clinton sought to lower expectation even before the caucuses began. She warned her supporters that she was coming to Wyoming as an underdog. Obama has done particularly well in caucus states.
Among those cheering as the caucus results from Laramie County were read in Cheyenne was Doug Mercado. He moved to Wyoming two months ago when his wife was transferred to nearby Warren Air Force Base.
"Senator Obama seems to have this newness about him — this energy that not only brings out the younger voters but the youth in older voters," Mercado said. "You know — why we fell in love with politics to begin with. 'The Audacity of Hope' and 'change' and it's just fantastic."
Evangeline Bratton of Cheyenne says she still believes Clinton will get the party's nomination. At least that's what she's hoping.
"I think she'll steer us all as a nation in one direction rather than having one or two going to the left road or the right road," Bratton said of Clinton. "We need a leader who is focused on the middle road."
Obama's victory in Wyoming allows him to add one more Mountain West state to his win column.
Denver was picked as the host for the Democratic Party's national convention because of something called "The Western Strategy."
The party hopes to win the presidency by replacing electoral votes lost in the South after the civil rights era, with new wins in the West.