Sunday, January 20, 2008

More on Nevada and South Carolina

From the Financial Times:

McCain and Clinton score key election victories

By Matt Garrahan in Las Vegas and Andrew Ward and Stephanie Kirchgaessner in South Carolina

Published: January 19 2008 21:34 | Last updated: January 20 2008 04:51

Hillary Clinton won a tightly fought contest in the Nevada Democratic caucus on Saturday, while John McCain swept to victory in the South Carolina Republican primary.

Mrs Clinton’s victory gave her campaign a much-needed boost going into next Saturday’s Democratic primary in South Carolina and re-establishes her credentials as frontrunner in the race for her party’s presidential nomination.

John McCain’s narrow win against Mike Huckabee, the former Baptist minister and governor of Arkansas, sets him up as the major contender for the Republican nomination ahead of the all-important “Super Tuesday” races on February 5. With 95 per cent of the votes counted, Mr McCain led 33 per cent to 30 per cent.

The victory was particularly sweet for the war veteran, because it was his defeat in the 2000 South Carolina primary that ended his run for the White House and virtually guaranteed the nomination of George W Bush. Mr McCain’s win will inevitably give him the “front-runner” status that has so far eluded the Republican race, in part because the winner of the South Carolina primary has traditionally gone on to win the Republican nomination.

Mr McCain faces a tough race in Florida’s January 29 primary against New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, who won the Nevada primary on Saturday. By winning South Carolina, Mr McCain has proven that he can appeal to conservative southern voters, not just moderate Republicans and independents, who helped guarantee his win in New Hampshire last week.

The South Carolina results mark a potentially lethal blow to the candidacy of Mr Huckabee, whose early win in the Iowa caucuses helped propel his poorly financed White House bid. Mr Huckabee was counting on a strong showing by the state’s evangelical and Christian conservative voters.

The Nevada Republican caucus was won by Mitt Romney with 53 per cent of the vote – his second triumph of the week after winning the Michigan primary last Tuesday. Ron Paul, the libertarian-minded Texas congressman, and John McCain were tied for third. About 25 per cent of Nevada voters are Mormon and 95 per cent of eligible Mormon voters voted for Mr Romney.

Clinton and Obama trade blows

In Nevada at a victory rally at the Planet Hollywood casino, Mrs Clinton greeted cheering supporters. “I guess this is how the west was won,” she said. “We will all be united in November.”

Mrs Clinton received significant support from women as well as members of Nevada’s fast-growing Hispanic population.

The number of Hispanic voters in western and southwestern states such as Nevada, California, Arizona and New Mexico is increasing and the community’s support could play a critical role in deciding the outcome of November’s presidential election.

Mrs Clinton won 51 per cent of the vote against Mr Obama ‘s 45 per cent. John Edwards was a distant third with four per cent, raising doubts about the viability of his campaign.

Mr Obama said in a statement that his campaign “appealed to people’s hopes instead of their fears”.

“That’s the campaign we’ll take to South Carolina and across America in the weeks to come, and that’s how we will truly bring about the change this country is hungry for,” he said.

Unlike the New Hampshire primary, which forecast victory for Mr Obama in the Democratic contest, polls in Nevada were correct in forecasting the win for Mrs Clinton.

However, her victory came amid deteriorating relations with Mr Obama, with the pair trading blows over comments he made about the Republican party.

In the interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Mr Obama said Republicans had been “the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last ten to 15 years in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom”.

At a rally ahead of Saturday’s caucus, Mrs Clinton said: “That’s not the way I remember the last ten to 15 years.”

She also accused Mr Obama’s supporters of intimidating caucus participants in Las Vegas. Mr Obama won the endorsement of the 60,000 member Culinary Workers Union, which dominated caucus locations in and around the Las Vegas Strip.

However, many CWU members ignored their union’s endorsement and instead voted for Mrs Clinton.

Mr Obama’s advertising campaign also came in for criticism, with Mrs Clinton calling on the Illinois senator to denounce radio advertisements accusing her of not respecting Hispanic people. Mrs Clinton said the advertisements were “shameless and offensive”.

A spokesman for Mr Obama said the campaign had discouraged supporters from running their own advertising campaigns.


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