Nevada Unions Endorse Obama
By Garance Franke-Ruta
The powerful Las Vegas Culinary Workers Union today endorsed Sen. Barack Obama. Last night, the Service Employees International Union, Nevada, also endorsed the Illinois senator, who finished second in yesterday's New Hampshire primary. In a memo, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe today called the SEIU endorsement "a significant boost to our efforts."
The endorsements will provide the Obama campaign with an important psychological and logistical boost as the campaign heads toward the Jan. 19 Nevada caucuses -- especially coming on the heels of a night in which Nevada supporters at 160 primary watch parties organized by the confident Obama campaign found themselves watching, instead of an Obama victory, a surprise first-place New Hampshire finish by a resurgent New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
While the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union is one of the most powerful political forces in Las Vegas, and is expected to help turn out caucusgoers for Obama, the 17,500-member Nevada SEIU endorsement's most significant impact may be its negative one, say observers of Nevada politics. The endorsement effectively blocks the more than 600,000-member California SEIU, which has endorsed former North Carolina senator John Edwards, from streaming supporters into neighboring Nevada to do organizing work, thanks to union rules that bar the participation of outside locals on behalf of a candidate not endorsed by the local SEIU.
Unlike Iowa's caucuses, held on a weeknight evening, the Nevada caucuses will take place during the day on a Saturday during the long and symbolically resonant Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. Several at-large caucus locations are being set up for shift workers on the Las Vegas Strip to attend on their lunch breaks, as well, and turnout is projected by Nevada Democrats to be in the tens of thousands.
Clinton has consistently led polls in the state, though her margin has shrunk. A December Mason-Dixon poll for the Las Vegas Review-Journal showed her leading Obama 34 to 26, with Edwards in third place at 9 percent.
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