Saturday, Jan. 19, 2008 | 9 p.m.
Following an intense campaign that included contested polling sites, negative ads and opposition from the Culinary Union, Hillary Clinton emerged victorious today in what proved to be a raucous — and in some cases
confusing — Nevada Democratic caucus.
"I guess this is how the West was won," the New York senator told hundreds of cheering supporters who gathered at Planet Hollywood to celebrate her win.
Noting some of the divisions in the party during the campaign, Clinton said, "we will all be united in November."
Clinton’s win over Barack Obama in Nevada gives her much-needed momentum going into next Saturday's South Carolina Democratic primary, where Obama was seen as having an advantage because of that state’s large African-American population.
Her victory today included a stunning showing at the nine controversial at-large sites on the Las Vegas Strip — where she won seven of those precincts.
However, during the late afternoon, the Culinary-backed Obama campaign tried to throw some cold water on Clinton's victory.
Using arcane caucus math and a formula that figured in Obama's results in rural Nevada, his camp insisted that Obama actually won Nevada by taking 13 of the Silver State's 25 national delegates. However, party leaders put out a statement saying Obama's camp was flat wrong.
"The calculations of national convention delegates being circulated are based upon an assumption that delegate preferences will remain the same between now and April 2008," said Jill Derby, state party chairwoman. "We look forward to our county and state conventions (April 19) where we will choose the delegates for the nominee that Nevadans support."
The Culinary Union had painted itself as the state’s presidential kingmaker all year. It ran an aggressive field program but did not endorse Obama until last week, just 10 days before the caucus. The outcome demonstrates that the endorsement itself was counter to the wishes of the union’s rank and file.
The intensity between the Clinton and Obama camps obviously got the political juices stirring in Nevada, where voters are known for their apathy.
Party officials announced that more than 115,000 Democrats came out and participated. That compares with the 2004 caucuses, when about 9,000 voters joined in for the party's caucuses.