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Early Caucus Dates Bring Nevada into Focus for 2008 Election

In the first of its Big Picture election series, the NewsHour reports from Las Vegas, where immigration, economic growth and urban development are top voter concerns. After a look at the Las Vegas political scene, local columnist Jon Ralston discusses how voters are reacting to the state's early caucus schedule.

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  • CAUCUS TRAINER:

    How many votes for "Boston Legal"?

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    While it may not sound like it, this is democracy in action. For the past several months, Democrats and Republicans in Nevada have been holding training sessions to teach people how to caucus.

  • NEVADA VOTER:

    My favorite TV show is "Bones."

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Republicans have been practicing by voting for favorite television shows.

  • NEVADA VOTER:

    It's all natural ingredients.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Democrats use candy instead of candidates.

  • CAUCUS TRAINER:

    OK, now, guys, this is exactly what you're going to see on caucus day. You're going to see representatives from the different candidates trying to convince you. They're going to find out what your issues are, and they're going to try and convince you that their candidate is best on that issue.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Nevada has been a caucus state before, but it's always been so late in the campaign season the parties' nominees were a foregone conclusion. That meant few people participated. In 2004, only 9,000 Democrats showed up to caucus.

    But this year is different. Nevada's senior senator and majority leader Harry Reid convinced the Democratic Party that Nevada should become the third state in the nation to vote for a nominee.

    SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Senate Majority Leader: For many years I've been very troubled with how we select our presidential candidate: Iowa, a wonderful state, fairly well populated, no diversity; New Hampshire, no people, no diversity.

    I think it's a strange way to pick a presidential candidate. And so it was felt by me and a number of other people that what we should do is change the process, broaden it.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Nevada Republican Party followed suit at the urging of the new state chairman, Sue Lowden.

  • SUE LOWDEN, Chair, Nevada Republican Party:

    It's an interesting political science experiment here in Nevada that we're doing this. And the fact that our candidates are coming in and they are generating the support, that you can touch them, that you can have a cup of coffee with them, that you go to somebody's house and you actually get to meet them, we've never had that before. So it's all new for us, and we are excited.