I worked in Las Vegas as a reporter for the Review-Journal newspaper from 1986 to 1988 and appreciate the disdain all Nevadans have for cheap gambling metaphors glibly deployed by national reporters when discussing ANY Nevada-based story.
Tempting though it may be, I will avoid the corny gambling cliches as I describe the feeling on the ground here just about two hours before the Democratic caucuses begin.
First, there is some degree of unease in the Barack Obama camp about today's result.
Second, I detect no preemptive triumphalism in the Clinton camp.
Third, the unions here are at daggers drawn and things could get a bit hostile at caucus sites on and off the Las Vegas Strip before the day is done.
Fourth, the Latino vote looms largest as the subset of voters most likely to determine the outcome. Public polls and internal polls in both campaigns show that vote splitting at least 65-35 for Clinton over Obama. The size of this turnout could spell the difference between victory and defeat.
Fifth, the Culinary Workers Union local 226 is, as expected, pulling out all the stops to help Obama win. But there is rising concern that two factors may limit Culinary's clout in this hard-fought contest:
A. The endorsement may have come too late to translate the union's organizing power into massive pro-Obama turnout (remember this fact: it's much easier for a union to unify and mobilize its members on behalf of a fight for wages and benefits than it is on behalf of a political candidate their membership has little or no intrinsic commitment to). A key question looming over today's caucuses is whether the Culinary endorsement was so close to the caucuses - just 10 days out -- that there wasn't time to fully mobilize union members on Obama's behalf.
B. The lawsuit filed against the at-large precincts in nine casinos may have had two salutary affects on the Clinton campaign: the first, creating enough confusion about the process to render Culinary's aggressive last-minute organizing less effective; and second, deepening pro-Clinton sentiment among Culinary members who disagreed with leadership' s Obama endorsement. Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton just swept through the MGM casino and received a very warm reception among rank-and-file casino workers who eagerly grabbed leaflets Bill and Chelsea handed out explaining casino workers can caucus for any candidate -- not just Obama.
Sixth, Rory Reid, son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and leader of Hillary's Nevada effort, has never wavered in his belief Nevada was winnable for Clinton. Right not, he appears as calmly confident as anyone in the Clinton camp. To his credit, Rory was calm even in the panic that set in when team Clinton feared it might lose New Hampshire and debated whether to fight hard for Nevada. Reid assured senior Clinton advisers Hillary could win no matter what happened in New Hampshire. Victory is by no means assured for Clinton here, but Rory may have been the one to keep his emotions in check the best and that, in the end, may prove very beneficial to Clinton.