The Winner's Circle

NEWSWEEK's Arian Campo-Flores on Clinton:

The scene on Saturday morning in the employees' cafeteria at Las Vegas's Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino provided a glimpse of where the day was headed. When Sen. Hillary Clintonarrived to greet workers and urge them to caucus for her, they mobbed her like paparazzi. Cheering and applauding, their eyes wide with enthusiasm, they jostled for position to catch a glimpse of her and perhaps shake her hand. "You guys need to stop pushing, okay? Calm down," said one hotel staffer to a mob of employees surging toward the candidate. Everywhere she turned, Clinton—who was sporting a bright red jacket and beaming at the fervent reception—was greeted by a sea of raised cell phones, snapping away. As one guy took a picture, he yelled out, "For the best woman in the world!" A buxom waitress in a tight red dress gushed, "I'm so proud that I'm meeting you."

Most of these people were members of the Culinary Workers Union—an organization that endorsed Sen. Barack Obamaand boasted a muscular turnout operation. Yet judging from their response to Clinton, many decided to part ways with the union's leadership and exercise their own ideas about who to support. "I will vote for Hillary," said Martin Corona, a banquet server who was planning to caucus later that day. "She has a lot of experience. She's better than the new man. I don't know where he comes from." Cinthya Fernandez, a housekeeper, added enthusiastically, "We're going to make history this year." Among the half-dozen union members interviewed by Newsweek, all but one declared themselves Clinton supporters.

It was only a snapshot, but apparently a telling one.

(Read the rest here.) 


And NEWSWEEK'S Howard Fineman on McCain

Eight years ago, I witnessed a tale of two buses. In 2000, I traveled with Sen. John McCainon his "Straight Talk Express" bus as he pulled off a stirring, sur-prise victory in New Hampshire. A week later, I traveled on Gov. George W. Bush's bus through rural South Carolina as he told his inner circle: do what it takes to defeat McCain.

They did.

Now, eight years later, McCain has made himself the closest thing the Repub-licans have to a frontrunner by winning the South Carolina primary. He beat for-mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, which is all he had to do, to lay to rest the memory of 2000 and make himself the most plausible force for uniting a dispirited and divided party.

Watching the numbers rolls in here at NBC News, I recalled the way McCain had been destroyed by attacks in South Carolina. His campaign died there in the GOP primary eight years ago. Now, in what can only be regarded as poetic politi-cal justice, it is South Carolina that has given him a chance to claim the spot he was denied in 2000.

South Carolina was a must-win state for Huckabee more than it was for McCain. If he can't win South Carolina, it's hard to see where else Huck is set up to do so. He got a goodly share of evangelical voters, but not enough to win. Ac-cording to the NBC exit polls, Huckabee won only 41 percent of that vote. Former Sen. Fred Thompson did McCain a favor by siphoning some of that vote away from Huckabee.  McCain himself got an astonishing 26 percent of the evangelical vote in the state.

(Read the rest here.)