Nevada: A Chancy Proposition

 

While I zip around South Carolina covering the Republicans, Richard Wolffe reports from Nevada on the confusion surrounding the Silver State's Jan. 19 Democratic caucuses:

The problem with Nevada is an entirely new set of circumstances: the state's first early presidential contest, which all three top-tier campaigns are contesting vigorously. The wide-open nature of the competition has left strategists second-guessing the most basic decisions--from the tone they take against their rivals, to the best way to spur voter turnout.

The most recent polls suggest either a 2-point lead for Obama or a 3-point lead for Clinton, with Edwards trailing in third but within the margin of error. However, none of the three campaigns are placing much faith in the polls because they have no idea what turnout model to use.

...

Amid the uncertainty, the Clinton campaign has gone on the attack. Clinton has gone after Obama and Edwards on Yucca Mountain--the proposed site of a controversial nuclear-waste storage facility. Clinton is airing a radio ad that condemns Edwards for voting for the site twice--but doesn't mention that he also voted against it once. The ad also suggests that Obama is in the pocket of donors from the energy company Exelon. It doesn't mention the fact that Obama opposes the Yucca Mountain site, or that Clinton herself has taken thousands of dollars from the energy company NRG.

Obama has launched an offensive of his own, accusing Clinton of being on both sides of a controversial 2001 bankruptcy bill in Tuesday's debate. When asked if she regretted her vote, Clinton said, "Sure I do, but it never became law, as you know. It got tied up. It was a bill that had some things I agreed with, and other things I didn't agree with, and I was happy that it never became law." The Obama campaign suggested Clinton's vote was shaped by her large contributions from the financial-services industry--even though she now opposes the legislation.

The attacks and counterattacks may help clarify Nevada's choices in this, its most meaningful presidential caucus to date. Or it could wind up leaving voters as confused as a first-timer trying to master the intricacies of betting on craps.

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