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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.
Hillary Rodham Clinton and her campaign tried to mend ties to black voters Thursday when a key supporter apologized to her chief rival, Barack Obama, for comments that hinted at Obama's drug use as a teenager. The candidate herself, meanwhile, praised the Rev. Martin Luther King and promised to assist with the rebirth of this troubled, largely black city.
Republicans, after three different winners in three primaries, worry about the possibility of a deadlocked convention.
Perhaps it is appropriate that the party that has become the symbol for gridlock in Washington could find itself gridlocked when it comes to picking their next candidate for President.
Will Rogers used to say "I'm not a member of any organized political party...I'm a Democrat." Nowadays, the same thing could be said for Republicans.