Analysis: The Democrats

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton reacts with her husband, former President Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea, to supporters at the Nevada Democratic caucus in Las Vegas on Saturday.

The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 12:15 a.m.

WASHINGTON - Hillary Rodham Clinton laid down a winning hand in Nevada. So did Barack Obama.

After a brawling presidential contest in the state, Clinton heads into the next battleground of South Carolina with another popular vote victory. But Obama, whose Jan. 3 Iowa victory recedes with time, walked away with one more Nevada delegate than Clinton.

The split decision shifts the fight to the South, where Obama is relying on black voters, who make up more than half of the South Carolina Democratic electorate, to give him a winning edge. Most polls have him leading Clinton in the state. But Clinton has won over many influential black leaders and had led in the state before Obama's Iowa victory established him as a strong contender.

By eking out 13 delegates to Clinton's 12, Obama was able to salvage a foothold in the race and keep Clinton from claiming a full dose of momentum.

The Nevada results indicated Clinton's support among women remained strong. Significantly, nearly two-thirds of Hispanic caucus-goers said they supported her, despite Obama's backing from a heavily Hispanic casino workers union.

Six out of 10 of those attending the state's caucuses were women and nearly half of them backed her, according to a survey of caucus attendees.

More than half of white voters entering the caucuses said they supported Clinton; one in three said they backed Obama. The white vote made up two-thirds of the overall vote.

Black voters heavily favored Obama, with eight out of ten voting for him. But they made up fewer than one in five voters.

That won't be the case in South Carolina. By Friday night, at a Martin Luther King Jr. banquet in Nevada, Obama already was making his case for black voters not to forsake him.

"Sometimes we've got that thing in our heads that says we cannot do something,'' he said as his largely black audience shouted "Yes!'' in response. "We have been told for so long it's not possible. We've got to wait for somebody else to tell us it's possible before we decide it's possible. But let me tell you, I'm here to say it's possible. We're doing it right now. Don't tell me I can't do something!''

That kind of exhortation is likely to continue throughout the week, boosted by Monday's observation of the Martin Luther King holiday. In a visit rich with meaning, Obama will speak at King's Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Sunday.

The Nevada results were a serious setback for John Edwards. At least one poll had placed him in a virtual tie with Clinton and Obama earlier in the week. But he mustered less than 4 percent in the caucuses.

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