Dems win turnout battle
Nevada Democrats expected a solid turnout for Saturday’s caucuses while Republican operatives said beforehand they feared the story in their case would be how weak the turnout was.
GOP campaign and party officials pointed out that the straw polls were nonbinding on delegates to the county conventions and that Saturday’s caucuses were competing with the South Carolina GOP primary, where delegates were actually being committed to candidates.
But when the process began Saturday morning, both parties were overwhelmed by the number of Nevada voters who crowded caucus sites.
Democrats doubled early projections of 50,000-60,000 participants. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, the turnout was 115,800 at the party’s more than 500 caucus sites.
The GOP turnout was also much larger than predicted. But at 44,300, not quite half the number the Democrats attracted even though both parties have about the same number of registered voters statewide.
Carson City’s two GOP caucus sites, for example, drew more than double the number of voters they expected. The estimated 400 at each of two sites turned into 1,000 a piece – 1,988 in total.
Those who came were willing to stand in line up to two hours – despite temperatures in the 20s – to cast their ballots.
Reports out of Southern Nevada indicate Carson City was far from alone as many GOP caucus sites actually ran out of ballots.
While the Democratic run-up to the caucuses went much smoother than the GOP, some of their sites ran out of ballots as well.
When the ballots were tallied by the GOP and delegates counted by the Democrats, the victories went to Hillary Clinton and to Mitt Romney.
Barack Obama led in 11 of Nevada’s 17 counties, raking in more than half the total delegates in five of them, including Carson City. He led by nearly 10 percent in Washoe County.
But that wasn’t enough to erase an 11-plus percent deficit in Clark, home to more than two-thirds of Nevada voters.
In the end, he trailed Clinton by just over 5 percent, 50.7 percent to 45.2 percent with all but 2 percent of precincts reporting. At that point, Clinton had 5,353 delegates to 4,771 for Obama.
John Edwards collected less than 4 percent of the delegates at stake and just under 400 delegates to the 17 upcoming county conventions. None of the other Democrats in the race could get even 1 percent.
Romney swamped the other Republican candidates in Nevada, collecting 51 percent of the total votes cast. Romney finished first in every county in the state except Nye, where Ron Paul edged him by 16 votes with 34 percent of the total. Romney won 80 percent of the total in Lincoln County.
No other Republican in the race had more than a quarter of the votes Romney received.
Ron Paul finished second with 14 percent and John McCain third at 13 percent.
Mike Huckabee’s strongest finish was in Mineral County where was second to Romney with 27 percent of the vote. He and Fred Thompson each collected 8 percent statewide.
Rudy Giuliani had just 4 percent and Duncan Hunter 2 percent.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., termed the caucus “a tremendous success.”
In a statement issued by his office, he said the party and its volunteers did a great job.
It was Reid who convinced the national party to assign the early caucuses to Nevada, putting a spotlight on the state which drew numerous visits by presidential contenders.
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