If Obama has the most to gain tonight in Nevada, Clinton has the most to lose. With the Illinois senator already leading by ten in South Carolina, a slip in the Silver State would likely doom Hillary to a 1-3 record heading into Super-Duper Tuesday on Feb. 5--and, by diminishing Clinton's national lead, give Obama his best possible chance to overcome her early advantages in key states like California, Missouri and North Carolina.
Expect Clinton to campaign hard in South Carolina no matter what happens tonight. She's already planning go after Obama's core Palmetto State constituency--African-Americans--with an appearance Monday (i.e., Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) at Zion Baptist Church in Columbia followed by a march to the statehouse. (Oddly, Obama has scheduled no public appearances; he'll spend the day prepping for that night's Congressional Black Caucus Debate in Myrtle Beach.) And there's no sign that Bill and Hillary's relentless swipes--on Social Security taxes, abortion rights, Iraq and Obama's "rookie" status--will stop now.
But the most important weapon in Clinton's arsenal may be spin. Bill, Hillary and their surrogates have spent much of the week trying to discredit the Nevada caucuses, and if Obama wins, the shouting will only get louder in an attempt to invalidate the results. When the courts dismissed a lawsuit filed by the pro-Clinton state teachers' union
Bottom line: The Silver State is anybody's race. (Except Edwards.) Whoever wins Nevada, wins Nevada. Clinton can compete on Feb. 5 regardless of tonight's outcome. But a victory would make her life a lot easier going forward, dashing Obama's hopes for back-to-back, pre-Super Tuesday wins. A loss would likely have the opposite effect.
UNADULTERATED CLINTON SPIN:
To: Interested Parties
From: Mark Penn, Chief Strategist
Date: January 18, 2008
Regarding: Will the polls be predictive in Nevada?
The public polls are in and they show Hillary Clinton with a lead in the Nevada caucuses. The Review Journal poll done by Mason Dixon shows Hillary ahead 9 points by 41 to 32, and the Zogby poll puts it at 5 points.
Unlike the tumultuous few days after Iowa when the media was wall-to-wall with coverage of Obama’s Iowa performance and key moments occurred, absent anything dramatic on tonight’s news we are heading into a very normal end of the campaign in Nevada.
So the question is – will these polls be reflective of the result? Turnout is uncertain since the last election saw only 9000 voters come out in 2004. This time the state is in the limelight, and 1800 people were in the debate audience alone, so we may get a significant turnout that could make the results broadly reflective of the polls.
But while union endorsements are usually helpful to candidates they have never come with their own self-contained precincts before. Nine caucus sites have been set up essentially for members of the Culinary union, who have endorsed Senator Obama. Because of a unique weighting system., these sites will count disproportionately in awarding delegates. This should give Obama a clear 5-point advantage starting out.
Can we make that up? Senator Obama's National Field Director said, "The Nevada election is going to come down to: Whoever gets the endorsement of the Culinary Workers Union, more than likely, is going to win Nevada."
On the other hand, we have a great organization, huge crowds and a great candidate delivering strong message. So stay tuned.
But if the polls turn out differently from the result, there may be an easy explanation for it this time