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Where Are They Now? David Bonior, Bill Clinton

Bleary eyed, former congressman David Bonior (D-Mich.) struggled to put on a happy face when we spotted him at 5 o'clock in the morning in a long American Airlines check-in line at Reagan National Airport this past Saturday. Bonior, the national campaign manager for John Edwards' presidential campaign, let out a sigh as he conceded his candidate faces "an uphill climb."

But he was a heck of a lot more upbeat (there were no hints of sighing) in an e-mail he sent to supporters Tuesday. There was no talk of "uphill" or of any "climb" for that matter. The race in Nevada, the next crucial early-voting state, he told supporters as he hit them up for cash, is a dead heat -- "with the momentum moving in John Edwards' direction."

"The press may be trying to spin this as a two-person race -- but the voters in Nevada are saying differently," Bonior said, pointing to a Reno Gazette-Journal poll, which has Edwards five percentage points behind Barack Obama and just three points behind Hillary Rodham Clinton.

His beard a bit thicker, the crows feet around his eyes more prominent, we didn't immediately recognize the man we saw so much of on Capitol Hill in the early '90s, when he was the No. 3 Democratic leader in the House -- the House Democratic whip -- who led opposition to President Clinton's North American Free Trade Agreement. Now he's fighting the Clintons on another front, trying to knock off Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), as well as Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), and get Edwards' tapped as the presidential nominee for his party.

Bonior was catching a flight to Reno, where he clearly found the Edwards campaign in much better shape than he indicated during our briefly chat at the airport Saturday morning.

"A strong finish in the Nevada caucuses means this is still a three way race for the nomination," Bonior said in his cheery e-mail. "It means the two $100 million candidates will be forced to compete on the issues that matter, unable to buy the nomination with glitz and glamour."

Speaking of glitz and glamour, we hear Bill Clinton is now on the ground in Vegas, staying at the luxurious Bellagio hotel. (According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Clinton ordered "four kinds of steaks, among other entrees" from N9NE Steakhouse for a party of about 20 in his Bellagio villa Monday.)

UPDATE, 8:00 p.m. ET: Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna tells us Clinton's very favorite restaurant in Vegas is Il Mulino. "Best food in town, but the real reason he goes there is for the staff and the service," McKenna said, a subtle wink at the Culinary Workers Union endorsement of Obama instead of Clinton's wife.

The hotel choice, meanwhile, puts Clinton in one of the nine Las Vegas casinos staffed by members of the union and site of a caucus likely to be won by the Illinois senator.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  January 16, 2008; 1:31 PM ET
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