Republican Mitt Romney won Nevada’s caucuses Saturday while John McCain and Mike Huckabee dueled in the South Carolina primary, a campaign doubleheader likely to winnow the crowded field of presidential rivals.
Democrats shared the stage in Nevada, where Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama vied for a caucus victory and the campaign momentum that goes with it.
Romney’s western victory marked two straight successes, coming after a win in the Michigan primary earlier in the week that revived his campaign.
Forget the coded messages, the oblique attacks, the indirect putdowns. When it came to courting Nevada voters, the Democratic presidential candidates had a brawl.
The week leading to the Nevada caucuses was one of the most contentious in the Democratic contest so far. The three Democratic candidates head to South Carolina, which holds its primary Jan. 26, with no sign the race will turn genteel in the South.
Voters in Nevada and South Carolina make their choices on Saturday in a chaotic U.S. presidential race, with polls showing tight struggles in both states as nominating battles move to the South and West.
In South Carolina, Republicans John McCain and Mike Huckabee are battling for the lead in a race focused on economic worries, while Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson hope to shove their way to the top in a state where Republicans have a history as kingmakers.
John McCain, whose presidential candidacy nearly collapsed six months ago, has soared to the front of the crowded Republican field while last year’s national GOP front-runner, Rudy Giuliani, saw his standing plummet over the past month, a new poll shows.
Among Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton still has a lead but rival Barack Obama has started to close the gap.
In both races, the dynamic could shift overnight. The South Carolina GOP primary as well as Nevada’s Democratic and Republican caucuses set for Saturday could upend the fights for the two party nominations.
Republican Presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee appealed to basic GOP homophobia Thursday by attempting to link homosexuality to bestiality and promoting constitutional amendments to force evangelical lifestyles on all Americans.
Trailing in the polls, Huckabee obviously wants to appeal to Republican intolerance and ignorance on gay rights issues and advance the repressive agenda of the GOP.
Huckabee also tried to link abortion to slavery, another ploy of the radical right wing of the Republican party.
The White House campaign has brought a new act to Vegas. Barack Obama has stepped up his campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton, and he’s trying to use humor to bring her down before this weekend’s Democratic presidential caucus.
His argument is starkly different from the “Iowa nice” approach he used in recent weeks when campaigning in the first caucus state. Candidates who go negative there have a history of turning off voters, so Obama rarely criticized Clinton directly in Iowa — instead he made veiled references to “some of my opponents” — and he won the state.
The fight for top-billing in Saturday’s Nevada Democratic presidential caucus has become much like its model in Iowa: an hour-by-hour test of who has the best organization.
But unlike Iowa, Nevada never really has done this before, and not on the scale an early caucus date requires. No one knows for sure what the best organization should look like in a state with two major population centers and vast stretches of desert in between.
As the top three candidates made their final pitches to voters, their organizations geared up to find out.