Edwards backers in Nevada hold sought-after votes

Nevada supporters of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards started getting phone calls early Wednesday morning.

It was representatives of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the remaining Democratic candidates since Edwards dropped out of the race Wednesday morning, asking for their support.

“I got my first call at 7:30 in the morning,” said Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, Edwards’ Northern Nevada campaign chairman. “Knowing the delegate race is as tight as it is, in Nevada and nationally, it’s understandable they would be trying to get every single one.”

Bobzien is going to wait and see. Most of the other leaders who were on board with Edwards said they are, too.

In a conference call with campaign leaders from around the country Wednesday afternoon, Edwards said he may or may not make an endorsement after Super Tuesday next week, but he wouldn’t presume to tell them what to do.

The former North Carolina senator freed them to make up their own minds, the Nevada supporters said.

In a Review-Journal poll earlier this month, 70 percent of Edwards’ supporters said they would caucus for another candidate if they had to, while 26 percent said they would rather stay uncommitted. Of those who had a second choice, 41 percent said it was Clinton, while 54 percent chose Obama.

In the Jan. 19 precinct caucuses, Edwards got just 398 of more than 10,000 delegates, or less than 4 percent. Clinton won the majority of delegates by a wider margin than that.

But because Edwards had support in rural and Northern Nevada, his delegates could tip the scales in those areas, which get extra weight in the selection of delegates to August’s Democratic National Convention.

The potential difference is minuscule, probably one or two of Nevada’s 33 national delegates. But if Obama and Clinton are both still in contention by convention time, every one will be sought after.

And so candidate surrogates such as Rory Reid, Clinton’s Nevada chairman, were picking up the phone Wednesday. (The campaigns did not leave paid staff on the ground in Nevada.)

Reid portrayed his efforts as an attempt to bring Democrats together after a divisive contest, but he acknowledged: “We certainly can benefit from their supporters. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be taking the time to make this effort.”

In Nevada’s rural counties, which together get to elect one national delegate, Obama beat Clinton by 53 delegates.

But Edwards had 130 delegates in the rurals. (Nine more delegates were uncommitted or supported Dennis Kucinich, who also has quit the race.)

Because of his rural advantage, Obama came out of the caucuses with one more hypothetical national delegate than Clinton.

Under the current delegate ratios, Obama would get 13 and Clinton 12 of Nevada’s 25 elected national convention delegates at the April 19 state party convention.

Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2919.

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