Site not look beautiful? Click here

Features

Our big, honkin’ caucus mega-package

Enough information on the Big Political Event to choke a donkey and an elephant

[Explainer]

Caucus 101

Back to basics

By Stacy J. Willis

What’s a caucus? It’s an event at which voters gather at their party precincts to pledge their support for a presidential candidate and select delegates to go on to the county conventions. Voters also submit resolutions to the party platform to be considered at their county convention.

When is Nevada’s caucus? January 19, 11 a.m. To find your precinct, check nvdems.com or nvgopcaucus.com.

How does it work? Democrats show up at Democratic precincts; Republicans to Republican precincts. A vote is taken to see which candidate is preferred. The vote happens like this: People are asked to walk to the corner of the precinct room under the sign that proclaims their candidate’s name.

For Democrats, there are 33 delegates at stake; for Republicans, 34.

That is, the caucus does not result directly in national delegates for each candidate. Instead, caucus-goers elect delegates to county conventions, who elect delegates to district and state conventions, where the national convention delegates are selected.

Optional super-explanatory paragraphs for policy wonks. On the Democratic side, a candidate must be supported by 15 percent of those who show up at each precinct to be considered “viable” in that precinct. Say a candidate gets 10 percent—those people will be told their candidate isn’t viable, and they then have the choice to either be “undecided” or choose one of the viable candidates. After the precinct chooses its winner, delegates will be elected, based on the number of people at that precinct, to go on to the county on February 23 to do the same game. (Those delegates, however, are not bound to vote for the candidate who won their precinct.) At the county level, the same process occurs, and delegates are chosen to go on to the state caucus, which is in April. Again, delegates are not beholden to the winner of their county. Then, at the state level, the delegates will probably vote for whomever has won in primaries nationwide, so the whole caucus thing is, on a voting level, pointless.

It is not pointless in this regard: At the end of the day on January 19, the media will declare a winner for each party in Nevada, based on precinct results. This will have some as-yet-to-be-determined effect on national public opinion. Also, the money and energy invested in Nevada’s caucuses is thought to increase voter participation in November, and since Nevada is a swing state, developing a grassroots machine is important.

On the Republican side, delegates (who are not beholden to a candidate) are selected to advance to county. The preliminary voting for a presidential preference is considered more of a straw poll, and does not bear direct influence on the delegate selection. Again, it is the media pronouncement of a winner, a snapshot of what’s happening now, that influences the race nationally.

Why is it a big deal? The Democratic National Committee moved up Nevada’s caucus to be January 19 for the first time this election, making it the third on the Democratic lineup. That makes us a bellwether state and the first Western state to chime in with its candidate picks, drawing a national spotlight to Western issues. Nevada has a larger Hispanic population and union population than, say, New Hampshire, so it directs candidates’ vote-for-me messages toward those issues. And it sheds national light on the dump at Yucca Mountain.

Also, the national media attention drawn by hordes of candidate visits and millions of campaigning bucks purportedly translates into more political clout for our state.

What can we expect to happen? Even more national media attention. Presidential candidates pronouncing the state “Nevahda” and not “Nevaaada.” Token discussions of Yucca Mountain. Candidates saying appeasing things about immigration in light of our Hispanic population. Candidates saying appeasing things about labor in light of our unions. Future interest in wooing Nevada voters.

What can we expect NOT to happen? No world domination. Few free trips to the White House. Just because Nevada endorses a candidate doesn’t mean that candidate will win. Nor does it mean that our issues will necessarily be addressed after the election.

[The process]

Union endorsement

Examining the political strategy of the group versus the individual

By Joshua Longobardy

Unions have held a historical importance in politics, on both the local and federal levels, due to their inherent organization and mobilization. Thus, logic asserts, they become even more important during a caucus primary, in which organization and mobilization are paramount. And further, in a close election, as we see this year in both the Democratic and Republican races (at the time this story goes to press), unions become downright indispensable.

“In a race as close as this year’s,” says Jane McAlevey, executive director of Nevada’s Service Employee International Union, one of the state’s largest and most well-organized unions, “I can’t see why you wouldn’t court us like crazy.”

Indeed, most of the major candidates have. Especially from the Democratic side. For example, the SEIU alone has hosted at least a dozen events with leading candidates, provoked two candidates to walk in a Nevada nurse’s shoes for a day (Clinton and Richardson) and, most importantly, seen major health-care reform take center stage on the Democratic platform. Several of the state’s big unions, including culinary, teachers and carpenters, have held the company of leading candidates these past six months.

Nevertheless, most of the big unions have yet to endorse a candidate (at press time). “Many say they’re holding out [for the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary],” says UNLV professor of political science David Damore. “The problem with endorsing too early is that you run the risk of backing a loser.”

The Culinary Union says it will wait out this early January before pledging its endorsement. McAlevey says the SEIU voted to revisit the discussion of whom to endorse following the January 3 Iowa caucus.

“It’s about strategizing,” she says. “It’s about letting the field narrow, making a strategic decision and choosing the most viable candidate. It’s about winning the White House.”

And that’s not merely because unions want to retain their political clout. It’s also because they are guided by things such as strategy, and not by conscience. That belongs to the individual.

This dynamic thus poses an epic quandary for the individual union member. Does he, with his vote, retain his or her individuality or demonstrate solidarity with his union?

“That’s a very interesting question,” says Martin Gallacher, a transport RN at UMC and board member of the SEIU. He says that, as a citizen, he treasures his individualism, but as a member of the SEIU he recognizes his loyalties to the union.

Moreover, he says: “In America, there is the idea that the individual can make a difference. But with no numbers there is no voting power.”

Union leaders say they talk to and poll members to gauge their needs and opinions, but ultimately, it is the leaders who decide on the group’s endorsement. Besides the invisible pressure to conform, the individual members then start receiving literature, e-mails and phone calls from their unions to inform and educate them about the chosen candidate, and to encourage them to engage in the political process.

Damore points out that one fundamental reason unions are strong in Nevada is that members trust their leadership. As McAlevey says, “Our members look to leaders to make smart decisions. They join because they’re confident the union will work on their behalf.”

Jim Sala, the political director for the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters’ Nevada branch, says that the members of his union are highly active in politics, and that union endorsements maintain a 70-80 percent adherence rate among its members.

“We constantly poll our members; we are always talking to them,” Sala says.

The state’s carpenters’ union has about 12,000 members. It gave a formal endorsement to Democratic candidate John Edwards last September. Since then, Sala says, hundreds of carpenters have canvassed Nevada in support of Edwards.

Speaking on adherence rates, Damore says it’s not as straightforward as union leaders make it out to be, and that the numbers are tough to validate. Union members belong to other groups as well—religious groups, ethnic groups, socioeconomic groups—many of which are also courted by politicians and several of which render their own endorsements.

“People are free to vote as they want,” says Damore. “But lots of people belong to various groups.”

Thus, the conscience of an individual is levied with various pressures, from various directions, when he goes to his precinct to vote. Above all during a public voting process like a caucus.

We will learn just how much of an impact the unions have on their members come January 19, says Damore. The higher the turnout, he says, the greater the impact.

“If we see 60,000 or 70,000 turn out on the day of the caucus, then we’ll know the unions had a very significant role.”

[The people]

Six questions with Sven Stromann

Nevada’s best (perhaps only) Germany-based political blogger

By Damon Hodge

For all but one of his 29 years, Sven Stromann has lived in Germany. During the 1995-96 academic year, he was an exchange student at George Whittell High in Zephyr Cove, Nevada (in Lake Tahoe). Not only has the Silver State become a second home—frequent return trips—it’s also provided fodder for a mini-career.

Intrigued by the tense build-up to the 2006 midterm elections, Stromann decided to loose his inner political pundit on the Internet. Response was good. He now runs nearly a half-dozen pro-Democrat blogs, ranging from mysilverstate.com

(“Where progressives unite”) to helluvaheller.blogspot.com, which nitpicks Nevada’s freshman GOP congressman Dean Heller.

“I was drawn to Nevada politics ahead of the 2006 elections, especially by Jack Carter’s Senate run,” says Stromann, who was born in Bremen, Germany’s 10th most populous city, and now lives in Mannheim, on the Rhine River, near Heidelberg and Frankfurt. “But a more general reason was the Bush administration, its decision to go to war in Iraq and that I could see how the Republican-run Congress and administration destroyed America’s standing in the world.”

The Weekly chatted with Stromann via e-mail from Germany.

You live in Germany. How do you maintain such a close pulse on Nevada politics?

It’s really not that difficult. Most bloggers get most of their information from the Internet. So do I. I also still have friends in Nevada and get their view of things.

So Nevada’s entry into the political big leagues, as a result of the January 19 caucuses, must have been a dream come true?

It sure made blogging Nevada politics this past year more interesting. I never imagined being on conference calls with presidential candidates. But once the caucus is over, it’s back to state and local politics.

How often do you come back to the Silver State?

About once a year. I’ll actually be back for the final week before the caucus.

The caucuses have arguably been the best thing to happen to state Democrats. The party is in better shape than it’s ever been. Yet Nevada went for Bush twice and has been run by a Republican governor for 10 years. Will all this infrastructure-building make a difference?

I think it will. We had two very close congressional campaigns in 2006. [GOP Congressman Jon] Porter barely won. And that [GOP Congressman] Dean Heller wasn’t able to get more than 50 percent of the vote in such a traditionally Republican district is quite telling. Also, Democratic candidates were successful in four out of six statewide races, which were all previously held by Republicans. The Republicans also have a problem with the low visibility of their caucus. The strong focus on the Democratic caucus is a major plus for Democrats this year.

What if the GOP keeps the White House? Will this pre-caucusing, mock-caucusing and actual caucusing have been for naught?

First of all I don’t think that will happen. There is a big difference between the Democratic and the Republican field. Democrats have an embarrassment of riches with this field of candidates, while Republicans are so splintered that they will have serious problems to unite behind their nominee. And again, I think Democrats will quickly focus on state and local politics post-caucus. The major goals are gaining one seat and therefore the majority in the state Senate, elect Robert Daskas [Third Congressional District] and find a credible candidate against Dean Heller [Second District]. And I think that can be done, no matter what goes on nationally.

Why do you so despise Heller?

I wouldn’t put it that way. The reason I and other Nevada bloggers are focusing so much on Dean Heller and more so on this district is that the Democrats in the past have barely done so. One reason we have Gov. Gibbons now is that he was never seriously challenged for his congressional seat. I think Jill Derby would have been the better representative for Northern Nevada and could have achieved more for the district in Congress. Heller needs to be challenged again so that Northern Nevadans have the representation in Congress they deserve.

[The people]

Six questions with Eric Odom

The Silver State’s second-most prolific conservative blogger lives in ... the Windy City?

By Damon Hodge

Hoping to help George Bush win Nevada in 2004, Eric Odom built a website for conservatives in Washoe County. Before long, the then-24-year-old found himself stuck in the quagmire of political minutiae: The GOP didn’t fully embrace technology.

A frustrated Odom launched several activist websites and formed a political action committee. By 2006, he was a self-employed political consultant.

In late 2006, Odom launched www.conservablogs.com and became a resource for conservative opinion (25 contributors and counting). After last year’s Conservative Leadership Conference in Reno, he took a job as new media coordinator for the Chicago-based Sam Adams Foundation, a nonpartisan political education organization. The position, he says, involves “working with these bloggers to help strengthen their online presence and better disseminate their message.”

You live in Chicago. How do you maintain such a close pulse on Nevada politics?

I’ve kept a good collection of RSS feeds that help me check most, if not all of the political blogs that are based in Nevada. I also use Google Alerts to notify me of significant political news taking place back home.

So Nevada’s entry into the political big leagues, as a result of the January 19 caucuses, must have been a dream come true?

It could have been a dream, but I fear the Nevada GOP is going to let it slip by with little notice. Democrat candidates such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have opened offices in all major cities across Nevada, but GOP candidate operations are difficult to find. We were happy to see the date move up when it first happened, but thanks to the sluggish and outdated GOP party not being aggressive in reaching out to new voters, it probably won’t make much difference. If any political limelight it is to come, it will likely be thanks to them [Democrats].

How often do you come back to the Silver State?

January is going to be a busy month for us here in Chicago, so I probably won’t make it back until February. I was in Nevada for a week in December, and I plan on hopping back and forth, visiting Nevada every other month for the rest of 2008.

The caucuses have energized the Democrats nationally and locally. But Nevada voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004 and has had a Republican governor for 10 years. Will all their work make a difference come November?

I believe the Democrats have been far more successful in building a young, energetic, pro-active infrastructure in Nevada during the past four years, and I think we’re getting ready to start seeing that foundation flex its muscles. On the blogging and “new media” front, Nevada Democrats have surpassed the Republicans by leaps and bounds. The Democrats are doing a superb job with messaging and keeping their base informed.

Why have Nevada’s conservative bloggers had a tough time maintaining their blogs and, thus, their voices?

They don’t seem to be in it for the long run, and with the exception of a few, conservative bloggers do not yet realize the potential of blogging. Plus, unlike liberal bloggers in Nevada, conservative bloggers do not have a party that engages them in online activism. The Nevada Republican party is about as effective as a lead balloon in online activism. On the Democrats’ side, you have people like Assemblyman David Bobzien, who ran his entire campaign website on a blog platform and used new media throughout the entire election cycle. On the other side, State Senator Bob Beers is the only politician who has half a clue how the blogosphere works. Last year State Senator Dennis Nolan found himself in a blogstorm over comments that insulted the conservative bloggers in Nevada.

What drew you to the conservative side of the aisle?

I consider myself a libertarian-minded Republican: Lower taxes, less government and less regulation. I’ve now taken a step back from Republican politics because the party has generally abandoned its core beliefs. I voted Bob Beers for governor and Sharron Angle for Congress last time around, which should give you an idea of where I stand politically.

[Volunteer profile]

 

Lauren Durham gives it her all

What’s it like to surrender your life to Hillary Clinton?

By Joshua Longobardy

See the girl. Young and blond and very pretty. A part of the 23 club at the Las Vegas Clinton Campaign headquarters, on East Tropicana Avenue across from the university, where myriad Clinton volunteers and staff workers like her will in 12 hours be just as they are now, at 10 a.m.—upbeat, buzzing, scurrying, working the phones without any sign or fatigue or complaint that infuses most workplaces, even though this one is too small for the multiplying Clinton supporters, one on top of another, rubbing shoulders, their varied conversations melting into one ebullient sound that seems to roar:

Hillary Clinton for president.

Today she will be busy like every other day of the past five months, except now the pace must be accelerated to speeds previously inconceivable, the way a long-distance runner does when the finish line crystallizes into sight, because Nevada’s first-ever caucus of significance is now just a little more than two weeks away.

The girl will drive to the region for which she is leader, on the northwest side of town, and she will hold one-on-one meetings with potential precinct captains, then conduct a Caucus 101 lesson, then canvass door to door, confirming or identifying Clinton supporters, then meet and coordinate with her team of interns, known as the winterns, who have dedicated their winter breaks from colleges all around the country to winning Nevada for Clinton, then pause just long enough to drink a Red Bull, then conduct yet another Caucus 101 meeting with a household of proud Clinton supporters, then return to the office to work the phones and to report to her regional supervisor. And then she will drive back home sometime after midnight and go straight to bed to do it all over again, but with even greater urgency, tomorrow, waking up at 8 a.m.

But today is still January 3, the day of the Iowa caucus.

Are you anxious—nervous—at all today?

I’m anxious for my day. I got a lot to do. I gotta get two new precinct captains today.

What about Iowa—you anxious about that?

It’s not in my control.

Yes, ma’am. How about Obama: You worried about Obama?

No. He’s not my worry.

Who is?

Me. I got to worry about what’s in my control.

Is Clinton winning Nevada in your control?

I think so. Yeah.

Her name is Lauren Durham. When she left Ohio and her Republican family and everything she knew to come to Las Vegas in the heat of summer to work for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, she was one of three field organizers. Now there are seven. They all, along with hundreds of other campaign staffers and volunteers, put in 12-, 13-, 14-, even 15-hour workdays, groundwork by and large, for neither glory nor profit but out of their own unwavering determination to do their jobs well, to not disappoint each other and to see Clinton one step closer to the White House, and they all work out of the crammed office across the street from UNLV. Until today.

Today national campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle announces to the Las Vegas headquarters during a 10 o’clock teleconference call that Nevada’s time to shine is just around the corner, with a mere 16 more days to go before the caucus, and that Clinton herself is so proud of the organization in Nevada—with 45 Caucus 101 meetings this weekend alone, as well as a massive canvassing effort and hundreds of volunteers putting in a combined 2,008 hours of work—and that today two new offices will open in Las Vegas, one in the southwest and one in the north, on Craig and Rancho. Like everyone else, Durham receives this announcement with a holler, and though she will break into a schoolgirl’s glee when mentioning the new office to people throughout the day, right now she is busy ripping the sheet of paper bearing her numerical reports out of the printer.

“I’m obsessed with my numbers,” she says.

Part of your nature?

No, I don’t think so. I’ve never been this way.

Is there a feeling of healthy competition among the staff?

I feel like I’m in competition with myself.

I’m inclined to believe most accomplished people do.

I’ve never been like that. I was never into sports or anything.

Do you feel any competitive notions toward Obama, or Edwards?

...

Lauren?

You know, I don’t. I really don’t. I think they’re all good—I just don’t see how they can win. I just can’t see how there’s anyone out there working harder than us.

*****

Her first appointment of the day is at 11 a.m., and so she packs her gear as if leaving on a weekend trip out of town and takes the I-15 to the 95 up into northwest Las Vegas, near the large snow-dipped mountains, and stops at the Summer Villas apartment complex to see Betty, a precinct captain. Betty hands Durham several cards signifying new commitments to Clinton that she’s rounded up throughout the complex. Durham’s mouth and eyes go wholly ajar, and then she breaks into a smile and looks like she wants to hug Betty, but her hands are occupied with campaign material. Betty talks about what’s wrong in the world, and Durham listens. Then Durham says that that is why it is so important to win Betty’s precinct for Clinton, and they both nod their heads.

They say Nevada’s caucus is critical because it is reflective—that our state is a microcosm for the nation in whole, with its rural northern half and metropolitan lower and all its sublime diversity. The Summer Villas are themselves microcosmic of that diversity, and Betty reports to Durham that she has walked around and talked to the young, old, rich, poor, black, Mexican, men and women, and Clinton looks solid here, with commitment cards to prove it. Durham takes leave and later says that Clinton looks solid everywhere she goes and so now, not just the biggest, but the only obstacle is to get people off their butts and to their precincts on caucus day.

Durham’s voice descends because she knows she can’t do it alone, and that is why recruiting these precinct captains is so crucial. Her voice also accelerates, and then she once again retrieves her sheet with her numbers. Her eyes narrow on it, even as she drives. Then she turns up the radio two notches. She sings in her car. She sings to spectral tunes all across the airwaves. Jimmy Eat World. 311. Bonnie Tyler. Even songs she doesn’t even know she knew because she’s put in so much time on the road driving through northwest Las Vegas neighborhoods since August, when she arrived in town and started going at it hardcore. She says she’s only had one emotional breakdown so far, which is good for a field organizer.

“I just want to do a good job,” she says.

You miss home?

Yeah, my friends and stuff. I don’t have anybody here. My friends, my life, is this organization right now. That’s all I know. But what would I be doing at home right now? There no other place I’d rather be than right here.

Do you talk to your parents much?

A repenter’s silence.

Yeah, I don’t always pick up when they call. Because I don’t have the time to listen to what’s going on in Ohio, you know. This is the biggest job I’ve ever had: I’m trying to get somebody elected president.

*****

Nancy is a chronic news viewer, and she would like to share her opinion of it if you’d only listen. She is a mother, a senior citizen and the happy owner of three dogs, and her workday at Caesars Palace, including traffic, totals 12 hours. She is Las Vegas. She is America. She says she campaigned for JFK and for the first time since feels a tantamount spirit, and at noon Durham arrives at her house, where donuts and coffee are waiting, to talk about the role of precinct captain.

Nancy wants the world to change, but she’s not so sure she can get the time off from work or run the risk of bothering folks with evening phone calls to make it happen. And so Durham must employ just about every tactic she knows to convince Nancy to become a captain. Educating. Motivating. Proselytizing. Even pleading. She succeeds. It’s 1:15 p.m., and Durham is now running late to set up to a Caucus 101 meeting at Silver Sky Assisted Living.

Eight folks take part, which is not a bad turnout. Canes. Walkers. A wheelchair. Durham has been wearing a puffy red coat all day but takes it off to make her presentation. There’s a new buoyancy to her motion. She not only teaches the basics of the caucus process and preaches its manifold importance, but also seeks to win new commitments to Clinton with her personal testimony. She tells the small congregation that she was serving in AmeriCorps last year after finishing college, working with Medicare Part D, when the crisis of our nation’s health-care system had become more than just a word but flesh, too. That’s when she became utterly frustrated with the system and began to take notice of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s long and steadfast effort to reform health care in America.

“I’m 86, and I’ve always said I wanted to live to see a woman president,” says one woman. Another says, “We need Clinton because she’s ready right now.”

Durham does well and picks up more commitments.

She doesn’t eat breakfast. Nor can she remember the last time she ate at a sit-down restaurant. Her habit is to eat one meal—lunch, usually Subway—and even then she’s busy working her cell phone. Therefore she’s lost weight. Ten pounds.

Nevertheless she looks compact and fit, and her skin is of a brilliant color. She is very pretty. Pretty unlike you’d expect to see in a young woman sacrificing family and finances and more than 14 hours a day to lend herself to the political process. Pretty like she had come from the beaches of Southern California.

*****

At a quarter to 4, the sun is all but imperceptible, and Durham begins canvassing. Labyrinthine neighborhoods. Cookie-cutter houses. Registered Democrats. Taciturn and with her eyes straight forward she walks. In the past she has been followed by strange men, and that was frightening, but for the most part she is too engrossed in her day’s goals to be afraid of anything outside of not reaching them. In fact, she does not stop today until she reaches her goals, and when she does, just before 5:30 p.m., she returns to her car and turns down the radio and cracks a joke that even she herself laughs at. She drives back to the new north offices and perks up even more when she sees her co-workers and her winterns. Now it’s as if she is levitating. Then she sits down. She drinks a Red Bull.

My experience has been that, after 12 hours of work, Red Bull alone ain’t gonna push you through the next three or four, late into the late night.

No.

So what does it for you—the money?

If you do the math, I think I make, like, $2 an hour.

So what does it for you?

It’s the first time I’ve ever really cared about my work. You know?

What kind of work have you done?

I used to work three days a week cleaning real-estate offices. The other four I did waitressing. I’ve never been afraid of work.

No ma’am. You’re from Ohio.

But I’ve never cared about my work like I do now.

Like soldiers who at first enlist for the cause and never stop believing in the cause but soon begin fighting primarily for their brothers, Durham loves those with whom she works on the campaign. They have grown close like family, and she wants to see them prevail.

At 6:30 p.m. she and four of her co-workers hold a Caucus 101 meeting at the home of a loyal Clinton supporter. Teachers come. A deaf woman. An 18-year-old. The wife of former Nevada Gov. Bob Miller. There is food, drink, a general emotional buzz in the room, and the 16 strangers who showed up sit in a crescent around Durham, talking with one another, their neighbors, about real things from real life, and this now is what Durham thinks about when she thinks about politics. Not press conferences nor grandiloquent speeches rendered before the multitudes. She is alive. Her smile is irrepressible. At the end of her presentation she, crossing her wrists in front of her, tells the intimate crowd that the byproduct of these gatherings is that neighborly relationships are being made and Democratic networks formed, so that from now on the Democratic party has the organization to do great things in local and state elections. So that now a Dina Titus won’t lose to a Jim Gibbons by four percentage points.

Can you see yourself as a politi—

I don’t want to be a politician. I don’t really have those aspirations. When I finished school I thought, Do I want to be a social worker? A lawyer? All I know is I want to influence law. But I don’t want to be president.

When do you go home?

Whenever they tell me.

You ever think about how you’ve instigated these new relationships between neighbors and networks between Democrats and when it’s all over you’ll be leavin—

I know. I’m gonna miss the people. There’s been so many people.

    

*****

Nobody speaks of the Iowa caucus all day, not even when Durham returns to the office at night and finds the place still vibrating, and that pleases Durham not because Clinton came in third but because it told her they all had been too busy trying to do their jobs well in Nevada to worry about what they couldn’t control. For the most part she is not abreast of the daily news because she volunteers to isolate herself within her work. In the same way she had chose to abandon it all in Ohio and follow Clinton’s campaign to Nevada in August through the website emilyslist. She calls it a no-brainer.

She gets home after 1 a.m. and goes to sleep.

She wakes up at 8 and does it all over again.

There was a moment yesterday in the car when she was led to consider the size and weight of federal politics in proportion to her own as an individual as measured by her workday.

“I wouldn’t have given up grad school and traveling to Europe if I didn’t think it was worth it,” she said. “I wouldn’t have done it.”

Yes ma’am.

This caucus is so important. It’s really important.

Yes ma’am.

The car stopped, her hands still fast on the steering wheel. Durham slid down a bit into her seat, as if to dig in. Her shoulders rose toward her ears and she looked like a little girl in her big red jacket.

I don’t think people understand how important this is.

Her voice cracked. There was now unequivocal desperation in her voice—the desperation of someone trying to move a mountain. “I wish I could show everyone how important this is. I try to show them, this is really, really important.”

[Volunteer profile]

An American tradition

Keren Tamayo works for the vote

By Damon Hodge

Just past the metal detectors and the white-haired security guards in navy blue blazers at the entrance of Downtown’s stately Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse, a large, single-file line has formed. By unofficial count, there are 100 people here, mostly adults, some still visibly groggy due to the morning hour. It’s 9:30 a.m. Friday, a day after Democratic Illinois Senator Barack Obama won the Iowa caucus, and democracy is in the air. And its symbolic representations, American flags, are in the hands of dozens of smiling people who’ve just become Americans.

As the newest citizens pass throngs awaiting their turn, Keren Tamayo approaches, asking in a soft voice, would you like to register to vote? Many decline. They can register later. For now, they’re basking in their newfound status as Americans, full heirs to all the rights and benefits, as well as the obligations and tribulations of this democracy. Only five sign up. Of those, Tamayo coaches a few through the forms. To her dismay, most identify themselves as Republican. She holds her tongue, a tough test for a naturally talkative 20-year-old juiced to be on her maiden voyage into politics. Volunteering for the state Democratic Party for the past month has awakened something in her. The grunt work is energizing—today voter registration, a week ago making cold calls. But not being able to say something while working as an impartial voter registrar, to challenge them, to rep for her party, man that’s irksome.

“I can’t do or say anything, even if I want to,” says Tamayo, 20, her voice cheerleader bouncy despite the mild setback. “If I could talk to them, if I saw them on the street and I wasn’t volunteering, I would strike up a conversation and try to figure out why they like the Republicans.”

Not that she dislikes Republicans, at least not in the proudly partisan way Al Franken or George Soros do. She admits to not knowing enough about the GOP, its precepts, or about the men vying for its presidential nomination to either demonize the party or the candidates. In one breath, she says she’s a Democrat because, “I like what they stand for; they care about the poor, about the middle class, about education and health care.” In the next, she says certain Republicans could very well support the same things she does. “I’m reading a lot and learning a lot about their positions. I want to be well-informed.”

Unlike the young folks responsible for Ron Paul’s emergence or the under-25 crowd behind Barack Obama’s fast ascent and John McCain’s recent surge, Tamayo isn’t tied to a candidate. Sure, she wants New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to become president, but that has less to do with his policy positions or experience than the fact that she saw him at Rancho High (“really nice”) and thinks it’d be cool see a fellow Latino in the White House.

Voting is the end result of political involvement, but, to her, the journey, and not ultimately who wins or loses, is the true payoff. It’s why, after working 60-hour weeks, she volunteers for the Democrats, why she bends the ears of friends about critical issues (immigration is tops) and drags them to party events, why she spent an evening at the computer printing out every presidential candidate’s position on gun laws so she could help one of her bosses make an informed decision, why she cares little about fame, glory or the chance to turn her partisan passion into a paid profession and is ridiculously optimistic and dedicated to doing what it takes to get people involved in the process.

 

*****

El Pri and El Pan. Tamayo is giving a crash course on the political parties that ruled during her childhood in Sinaloa, Mexico. El Pri, she says, “resembled Republicans; El Pan, Democrats. My mother taught dance, and my father worked construction in Las Vegas. He would send money home. Even though we lived in a nice, three-bedroom house and went to nice schools, my family leaned toward El Pan because they cared about the common people, the low-to-middle-classes. I remember my family talked a lot about politics.”

The Tamayos have lived apolitical lives since coming to Las Vegas in 1995. Shortly after Tamayo’s father sent for them (mom, sister Wendy and brother Gustavo), he left. Gustavo was sent to live with an aunt in Downey, California, and her mother began cleaning homes to make money. They lived in an apartment on Lake Mead and Civic Center. “Rent was $465 a month,” Tamayo says. “It was about survival. Politics wasn’t a concern.”

Over the next few years, the family bounced from thuggish family members to the garage of fellow parishioners at St. Christopher’s Catholic Church to apartments in ratty neighborhoods. When Tamayo’s mother got a job painting houses, they moved into a house on Sunrise Mountain. Things improved. In the eighth grade, Tamayo got accepted in the magnet program at Knudsen Middle School and joined student council. Her mom started a Latin dance group for girls ages 6 to 13 and booked them at events around town.

By freshman year at Clark High, Tamayo was on the road to, she says, “ending up as the stereotypical Hispanic girl who drops out of school and gets pregnant.” She ditched school and hung with the wrong crowd until an ROTC instructor whipped her into shape. “I was hanging out with bad people, and I wanted to experience what they experienced. I wanted to have fun.” But for that ROTC class, she wouldn’t have joined the Student Organization of Latinos, become interested in college (sophomore majoring in education at Nevada State College) or cared anything about American politics.

As part of a class assignment, she went to a John Kerry rally in 2004 at Jaycee Park. There were more than 100 people there, talking about all these important issues. It opened her eyes. She wanted something to be passionate about. “I registered to vote that day,” she says. “But honestly, though, I didn’t follow up after that.”

*****

After 13 years in America, “my mom still isn’t registered to vote,” Tamayo says. Nor is Wendy, who’s 19. Gustavo isn’t old enough yet. She’s in a back office at the Nevada Democratic Party headquarters on Valley View just south of Charleston, making cold calls. She’s gotten hung up on a few times, but that’s not the discouraging part. “The Hispanic households seem very wary. I can tell an adult is home because I hear people in the background. But they lie and say the homeowner isn’t there. I guess they don’t trust the government.” Convincing family and friends to register has been tough.

The light bulb came on for Tamayo in a personal development class she took at a friend’s behest. In order to make change, the instructor said, you have to stop making excuses. “I didn’t feel I was making a difference.” She wanted to teach or be a social worker—to educate children or repair broken young people. But the more she delved into politics—reading the newspaper, searching the web—the less she figured it made sense to be involved at the end of the process. Politicians control funding; they set budgets on which things like teacher raises are based. If she got involved on the front end, maybe she could make more of a difference. The idea crystallized in her mind when hundreds of thousands of Hispanics marched in cities across the United States on March 25 to protest federal legislation that would criminalize all 12 million undocumented people in the United States into felons, along with anyone who aids them.

“I have family who are here illegally,” she says. “I’ve had friends deported. Many of my friends who are here illegally live in fear. They don’t have driver’s licenses. They don’t have insurance. They don’t register their vehicles. They’re scared all the time. They don’t want anything to happen to them. Many are really smart, but they can’t live life. They don’t try to become legal because they don’t know the American political system, and they don’t trust what they don’t know. But if we don’t let people know how bad things are, nothing will be done. People think I’m a big dreamer who believes in a perfect world. I don’t believe in a perfect world, but I think it can be better and achieved through politics. I can’t wait to vote.”

*****Marco Rauda, a 26-year-old Democratic county caucus organizer, sees nothing wrong with Tamayo’s optimism and says she’s not building herself up for a letdown. He, too, was like her, all precocious and hopeful. Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen asked him to campaign for the 2006 election. When Kihuen won, it kindled his faith in politics. Someone who looks and thinks like him is now in the position to make change and voice concerns on issues like immigration.

“I’ve have friends deported. I was born in El Salvador,” Rauda says. “My citizenship is in process, but I’m still able to do something good. One win can get you through a couple of losses and some of the tough times.”

Next to the Democrats’ table in the Lloyd George building is the Republican table, manned by voter-registration director Aaron Saltzman, 22, who got his start volunteering at the University of California at Davis because he wanted to make a difference. The state Republican Party staves off any potential disenchantment, he says, by letting young people define their roles. The youngest intern is 13.

“These people are passionate about politics because they got it from their parents, or because the GOP has done something for their lives. The GOP allows you to move up in the ranks and make a career out of your passion.”

Come November, Tamayo expects young people will finally make the impression predicted in 2004 (10.5 million voted, about a tenth of ballots cast). Much may not change the day after a new president is installed. Years may pass before significant change occurs; a generation even. So long as there’s gradual improvement—a given, she says, if a Democrat is elected—she’s fine. Maybe it’s youth speaking, or maybe she really is a dreamer, but Tamayo doesn’t want to acknowledge that politics can be an ugly, crass, morally bankrupt game. She prefers to stay happily naive about the underbelly and think she can be politically active without becoming jaded.

“I still like to party, and I’m not trying to be super political girl either,” she says. “You are who your 10 friends believe, the saying goes. So I chose to hang around people who want to make a difference in the world. I was just floating around, but this has rejuvenated me. It’s been food for my soul. I hate people telling me I’m too optimistic.”

*****

An executive from the state Democratic Party leaves an after-hours voice message, saying she needs to clear something up. “It won’t change the story,” she insists. On Sunday, Tamayo reaches me via phone late at night. She’s audibly nervous; the lilt, the prissy bounce in her voice is gone. Is she tired from both jobs (in a swap-meet embroidery shop, at an eyeglass store in the Boulevard Mall)?

“I’ve got something to tell you.”

Six seconds of silence follow.

“I lied.” Four seconds of silence.

“I’m not registered to vote.”

Her citizenship application is currently being processed. It won’t be done in time for the November elections. Tamayo is disappointed. She thought it added to the story, her activism culminating in a trip to the ballot box to help determine the path of her adopted country. She’s uneasy.

“I just didn’t want to seem like a hypocrite,” she says. “I really enjoy volunteering and being involved in politics. I didn’t want to hurt the story.”

I try to reassure her. The lie doesn’t negate everything. In fact, I say, perhaps it’s a better narrative than her original story. Whether she’s a citizen or not seems of little consequence: She still believes in the promise of America, in the value of being an active participant in democracy. She got involved, uninfluenced by mercenary motives—there’s purity in that, something that should give us all a reason for optimism.

[The process]

Clarifying health-care positions

Nevada for Health Care runs down each candidate’s stance on this key issue

By Joshua Longobardy

Everyone knows you can vote for your favorite presidential candidate during the caucus. What’s often forgotten, however, is that you can also submit a resolution to be considered for addition to your party’s platform.

The Nevada for Health Care organization, a nonpartisan group of some 15,000 citizens, already has its resolution written out and ready to be delivered on January 19. And that’s because they’ve been working to prioritize health-care reform in America since last April, when they sprang up in reaction to Nevada’s new caucus date and the heightened attention that would accompany it. A grassroots movement, the citizens came together with the sole aim of increasing access to affordable health care for everyone.

“The power is definitely in numbers,” says Samantha Galing Gaddy, campaign director for the organization. “We set out to have a presence.”

By that she means Health Care voters showed up, by the hundreds, at every major presidential candidate’s events across the state, wearing their signature purple shirts. They wrote letters to the editor, recruited new health-care supporters and hosted house parties. And they made phone calls, sent e-mails and canvassed, canvassed, canvassed. In other words, Gaddy says, they put names and faces to the tragic stories that have resulted from what she calls a flawed health-care system.

“There are 496,000 people without health care in Nevada,” she says. “We’re looking for a big change.”

They, by and large, have been effective. For months now, they, with the coordinated assistance of Americans for Health Care, their parent organization, have pressured the candidates to deliver plans for health-care reform. And, for the most part, they’ve gotten it.

Which is to say, even before submitting their resolutions to the caucus, the Health Care voters managed to make the political process work for them. Here, in summary, is a product of their work—attempts to clarify what each candidate stands for in regard to health care:

Hillary Clinton: Plan requires everyone to purchase insurance and provides subsidies to make coverage affordable. Plan would allow people to keep their existing coverage or buy coverage through Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Plan also requires large employers to provide insurance coverage or help pay for it.

Barack Obama: Plan requires that all children be insured and that all employees either cover their workers or pay into a public insurance plan. The plan also allows people to keep their existing coverage or purchase coverage through a new purchasing pool called the National Health Insurance Exchange, which offers competing public and private options.

Bill Richardson: Plan requires all individuals to have coverage and provides subsidies to make coverage affordable. Plan requires employers to contribute to the cost of coverage for employees based on a sliding scale; allows people to retain existing coverage or buy coverage through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program; expands Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP); and allows people over 55 to buy into Medicare.

John Edwards: Plan requires employers to cover employees or help finance a public insurance plan. It requires all individuals to have coverage by 2012. It expands Medicaid and SCHIP, reforms insurance laws to contain costs and creates regional nonprofit purchasing pools with competing public and private plans from which to choose. Plan also allows individuals to keep existing coverage.

John McCain: Plan will end tax preference currently benefiting employees with health insurance through their workplace. It would expand tax credits to help all individuals and families buy private insurance coverage. It proposes to control health-care costs through tort reform, and by charging provider payments.

Mitt Romney: Signed a comprehensive health care reform law while governor of Massachusetts, but has not yet released a detailed plan on the federal level. Generally encourages reforms that vary state by state, and generally supports the expansion of private insurance through tax credits.

Rudy Giuliani: Plan will shift incentives from current employer-based system to the individual market. It offers tax credits to help low-income families pay for coverage. It offers the expansion of Health Savings Accounts with high-deductible health insurance plans, creates large insurance pools to which small businesses can contribute and deregulates the insurance industry.

Mike Huckabee: Plan would use tax credits and other tax incentives to encourage people to buy private insurance. Plan would expand Health Savings Accounts with high-deductible health plans to everyone.

Source: Nevada for Health Care. A more thorough and detailed comparison can be viewed at www.nvforhealthcare.org

[Fun with caucusing]

Political football

Because politics makes more sense on the gridiron

By Damon Hodge

Since high-stakes politics can be as entertaining as a tense athletic match, we decided to treat the 2008 presidential campaign as a fantasy football contest, complete with a mock draft and game notes. You may now place your bets.

Draft

Ratings points: 25 highest

Key plays: Recent career triumphs and trials

I = Independent. D = Democrat. R = Republican

Michael Bloomberg (I, New York City mayor)

Ratings points: 15-20

Key plays: Created Bloomberg News, Bloomberg TV; decent job quarterbacking NYC.

Draft position: First-round potential; could opt to sit back and prep for the 2012 season.

Hillary Clinton (D, New York senator)

Ratings points: 19

Key plays: Stumped early for universal health care; triangulated on Iraq; blew first-quarter lead in Iowa.

Draft position: Stranglehold on top overall pick suddenly loosened.

John Edwards (D, former North Carolina senator)

Ratings points: 17

Key plays: Won more than $60 million for clients as a trial lawyer; anti-poverty champion; vice-presidential candidate in 2004.

Draft position: Legitimate second-rounder improved stock with Iowa performance; game-time decision that depends on if he shows up to play in Nevada.

Al Gore (D, former vice president)

Ratings points: 5

Key plays: Lost the big one in 2000.

Draft position: Good supplemental draft pick-up. Coaching material.

Rudy Giuliani (R, former New York mayor)

Ratings points: 19

Key plays: Led NYC through 9/11 recovery; turned pro early (dubious political record).

Draft position: First-round potential.

Mike Huckabee (R, former Arkansas governor)

Ratings points: 15

Key plays: Signed bill equalizing school funding in Arkansas; created health initiative for the entire state.

Draft position: Good showing at the combine (Iowa); too early to say if he’s a keeper.

John McCain (R, Arizona senator)

Ratings points: 18

Key plays: Survived being a Vietnam POW; quarterbacked campaign-finance-reform legislation.

Draft position: Plays younger than he really is; likely to last until the second round.

Barack Obama (D, Illinois senator)

Rating points: 22

Key plays: Gave Gipper-like speech in 2004; scored season’s biggest upset in Iowa.

Draft position: Could be top overall pick.

Ron Paul (R, Texas congressman)

Ratings points: 12

Key plays: Broke through the line in Iowa; loyal youth following.

Draft position: Undraftable; popularity exceeds potential.

Bill Richardson (D, New Mexico governor)

Ratings points: 14

Key plays: Stood on the sidelines on Yucca Mountain before he pledged to stop it.

Draft position: Could get picked up (cabinet position) on waivers.

Mitt Romney (R, former Massachusetts governor)

Ratings points: 20

Key plays: Created framework for universal health care in Massachusetts; fumbled frontrunner status with Iowa showing.

Draft position: Legitimate top-3 pick.

Fred Thompson (R, former Tennessee senator)

Ratings points: 8

Key plays: Runner-up in the Wyoming caucus (but it’s Wyoming).

Draft position: Worse than Mr. Irrelevant (the last player picked in the draft).

Game notes

When Democrats are on offense

Strengths: Fast on synthetic turf (Gore); can play multiple skill positions (Richardson—ambassador, energy secretary, governor); three high-dollar stars who can score from deep (Clinton, Edwards, Obama)

Weaknesses: 12 players on the field (Bill Clinton covering Hillary’s side); no set playbook (triangulation on Iraq, capitulation to unions, reversals on Yucca Mountain support); inexperience with late-game comebacks (Edwards, Obama)

When Republicans are on offense

Strengths: Favor smashmouth, grind-it-out style (troop surge in Iraq); leadership in the clutch (Giuliani per 9/11)

Weaknesses: Prone to interceptions (Romney’s waffling); trouble holding leads (GOP lost Capitol Hill in the 2006 midterm election); fumbles at crucial times (Romney’s Iowa caucus performance; Giuliani ignoring small-state primaries)

When Democrats are on defense

Strengths: Improved blitz schemes (attack Bush at every turn) and better tackling of issues (universal health care, plans to bring the troops home)

Weaknesses: Soft interior (perceived to be weak on national defense); prone to late hits when desperate (Clinton on Obama); can they protect a lead? (2008 elections)

When Republicans are on defense

Strengths: Devour familiar offenses (salivating at a Clinton nomination); solid containment skills (build a fence to stop illegal immigration); play through injury (McCain)

Weaknesses: Illegal use of hands (serial husband Giuliani); susceptible to trick plays (Bush camp claiming in 2000 that McCain fathered a black child)

[The money]

Endorsements

Who’s behind the top candidate and what that means

By Damon Hodge and Joshua Longobardy

Democrats

Hillary Clinton

Local backers: Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, State Senator Dina Titus, Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen, City Councilman Ricki Barlow, former Gov. Bob Miller, former Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa, North Las Vegas City Councilwoman Stephanie Smith.

Impressiveness score: Nine. Goodwill from hubby’s two presidential terms undoubtedly has helped; Kihuen could deliver Hispanic votes.

Celebrity endorsers: Maya Angelou, Danny DeVito, Fran Drescher, Tom Hanks, Janet Jackson, Magic Johnson, Tobey Maguire, Marla Maples, Paul Newman, Rhea Perlman, Pauly Shore, Carla Simon, Steven Spielberg, Ben Stiller, Barbara Streisand, Lily Tomlin, Rita Wilson, John Lithgow.

Thanks, but you can keep your support: Gennifer Flowers (she slept with your husband—hello!), Jenna Jameson (keep Bill out of pawing distance), Jerry Springer (white-trash enabler).

Best/worst fake endorsement: Blogger Skeptical Brotha says Aunt Jemima is a Clinton fan. She gushed about Clinton in a press statement: “Oooh honey chile, I’s so happy to tell de wurld bout de goodness of de Lawd and Miss Hillary.”

John Edwards

Local supporters: Assemblymen Bernie Anderson, David Bobzien and Richard Segerblom, Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, 4,000-member Nevada Communication Workers of America, a coterie of citizens focused on anti-poverty efforts.

Impressiveness score: Eight. Snagged three northern-Nevada lawmakers, territory Clinton and Obama both covet.

Celebrity endorsers: Kevin Bacon, Harry Belafonte, Jackson Browne, Larry David, James Denton, Danny Glover, Bonnie Raitt and Tim Robbins.

Black like me: Overlooked in the heated race between Clinton and Obama to court African-Americans is that fact that Edwards has landed two not-insignificant gets: Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover. Sure, they’re dinosaurs of the civil-rights movement, but they still have cachet among the old black guard.

Whoo-hoo, campaign swag: People.com reports that the Edwards campaign is offering supporters signed Mystic River memorabilia (Bacon and Robbins co-starred in the Clint Eastwood flick).

Barack Obama

Local supporters: Democratic fundraiser Billy Vassiliadis, Elaine Wynn, State Senator Steven Horsford, Assemblymen Kelvin Atkinson and Harvey Munford, Assemblywomen Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Sheila Leslie, businesswoman Rose McKinney-James.

Impressiveness score: Seven. Don’t underestimate the savvy and resolve of Vassiliadis and Horsford (a national Democratic committeeman).

Swift Boat, Part deux? So if Elaine convinces Steve to support Obama, will Wynn nemesis Sheldon Adelson focus on bringing him down?

Celebrity endorsers: Ben Affleck, Adam Arkin, Halle Berry, Tony Bennett, Warren Buffett, Matt Damon, Ted Danson, Paul Dooley, Jodie Foster, Jamie Foxx, John Grisham, Bruce Hornsby, Kathryn Joosten, Billie Jean King, Cedric “The Entertainer” Kyles, Eriq La Salle, Steven Levitt, Master P, Paul Newman, Ed Norton, Jean Smart, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith, Gene Wilder, Oprah Winfrey and Joanne Woodward.

If this presidency thing doesn’t pan out: Obama could make a movie of his life, starring Will Smith in the lead role, Eriq La Salle as his Kenyan father, Jodie Foster as his white mother, Master P as his brother Roy, Jada Pinkett-Smith as his half-sister Maya, Halle Berry in the role of Michelle Obama and Paul Newman as irascible Democratic pollster Mark Penn. Winfrey would fund it.

Bill Richardson

Local supporters: State Senator Maggie Carlton, Assemblyman Moises Denis, 2,400-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Hispanics in Politics (the state’s oldest Hispanic political group), grassroots community organization Mi Familia Con Richardson.

Impressiveness score: Five. Losing Kihuen’s support probably smarts a bit.

What could hurt even more: Nevada’s oldest Spanish-language newspaper endorsed Clinton last week.

Celebrity endorsers: Christie Brinkley, James L. Brooks, Kate Capshaw, Michael Douglas, Jodie Foster, William Friedkin, Lee Iacocca, Val Kilmer, Bette Midler, Paul Newman, Edward James Olmos, Tony Plana, Judge Reinhold, Martin Sheen, the Unser brothers.

Hey, you folks got a minute? When you’re a dark horse and fading fast, no group is too obscure. In October in Las Vegas, Richardson addressed national convention of the 60,000-member United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry.

Republicans

Rudy Giuliani

Local supporters: Rep. Jon Porter, State Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, Assemblymen Pete Goicoechea and James Settelmeyer.

Impressiveness score: Two. Raggio, the de facto president of northern Nevada politics, could be a big boon.

Celebrity endorsers: Bo Derek, Robert Duvall, Steve Forbes, Kelsey Grammer, Melissa Gilbert, John O’Hurley, Cheryl Ladd, Dennis Miller, Pat Robertson, Tony Sirico, Ben Stein and David Zucker.

Use him judiciously: As Paulie on The Sopranos, Tony Sirico said some wild stuff. But religious leader Pat Robertson has had his share of Paulie-like moments: “If he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it,” Robertson said of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. “Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up,” he said about nuking the State Department.

Mike Huckabee

Local supporters: No list submitted.

Impressiveness score: Negative 1. He has no state presence to speak of. Last month, Californians for Huckabee reported their man was six points behind Mitt Romney (29 percent to 23 percent). Memo to Huckabee: Nevadans don’t much care what Californians think.

Celebrity endorsers: Ric Flair, Chuck Norris, Ted Nugent.

Highest staged-ass-kicking quotient: The Nature Boy (Flair) and Walker, Texas Ranger (Norris) combined have fake-kicked more ass than any other duo in entertainment history, save for Bruce Lee and Hulk Hogan.

Fastest to 100 push-ups: What happens if Huckabee and Clinton (endorsed by Total Gym pitchwoman Christie Brinkley) are the party nominees?

Marketing alert, marketing alert: Huckabee lost 105 pounds and created the “Healthy Arkansas” initiative to encourage exercise, healthy eating and quitting smoking, so it’d be a natural tie-in for Total Gym. Perhaps every donor gets one free.

John McCain

Local supporters: MGM Mirage CEO Terry Lanni, Republican fundraiser Sig Rogich, County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury.

Impressiveness score: Four. Lanni and Rogich are big, Rogich particularly because he was a Bush “Pioneer,” raising $100,000 for the president’s 2004 re-election.

Celebrity endorsers: Curt Schilling.

Time will tell: Schilling’s support might not amount to much (just guessing here, but Babe Ruth was perhaps the only baseball player worth courting for an endorsement), but it won’t mean a thing if Mr. I Never Used Steroids Just Look at My Body actually used performance-enhancing drugs.

Mitt Romney

Local supporters: North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon, former Gov. Kenny Guinn, former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, outgoing Clark County Commissioner Chip Maxfield, former City Councilman and County Commissioner Jay Bingham.

Impressiveness score: Three. Not sure how effective this coterie of former elected officials will be.

Celebrity endorsers: Ann Coulter, Donny and Marie Osmond, Randy Owen.

You can keep your support, Part 2: If effectively demonized, Coulter could inspire the same vitriol in Democrats as Hillary does among Republicans. Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio reinstituted chain gangs, forced inmates to wear pink underwear, housed overflow prisoners in tents (which would be innovative if not for Arizona’s 110-degree summers) and has had a handful of cases involving inmate abuse.

 

  • Get More Stories from Thu, Jan 10, 2008
Top of Story