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A few leftovers

A full month of frenzied holiday extravagance requires a clear plate, so I’m ridding my notebook of some political leftovers.

When the Clark County Democratic Party hosted the Jefferson Jackson Dinner 12 days ago, the event was hyped for its unprecedented size and the presence of all eight presidential candidates. But some of the mishaps at the dinner were old hat to county Democrats.

At 4:50 p.m., just minutes before the CNN presidential debate was to begin at UNLV, the scene at the Paris-Las Vegas convention area was more akin to the 1968 Democratic National Convention, albeit with the rabble rousers in formal attire.

Registration lists had been lost. The doors to the debate-watching reception were still closed, and several men argued vociferously with Erin Bilbray-Kohn, the event organizer, who had the unfortunate task of handing out credentials to those at the end of the alphabet.

To be certain, nobody anticipated a crowd of 2,300 — registrations increased by 600 in a matter of two days, requiring the hotel to “knock out a wall” to make more space in the ballroom.

To be fair, no one could have pulled off such a monstrous event with a year’s planning, let alone a measly three months of work.

But the county party failed to attract much national press, and those who arrived post-debate in time for speeches by Sens. Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would have had to rent a room to file reports because the hotel lacked Wi-Fi.

Even local media were stymied by the lack of technology and the 7 p.m. closing of the business center. Thankfully, resourceful journalists and good public relations officials can work things out despite all the best efforts of the Democrats to screw it up.

So here’s a belated thanks to the Harrah’s public relations team and catering manager. I filed my column on a catering computer in a back-of-the-house office. Apparently, I didn’t look that unusual. One employee came in and asked me for a pen and another for the weekend schedule.

County Chairman John Hunt called the pre-event registration nightmares “growing pains,” and suggested that the sheer size of the event outweighed any temporary setbacks. But the county party is also guilty of a little one-upmanship. The party strives to have its own building, and is hoping to flex enough muscle for the state party to notice.

The 2008 presidential campaign in Nevada — in advance of the state’s Jan. 19 caucuses and the run-up to the general election — will be of a magnitude that dwarfs any Jefferson Jackson Dinner or anything seen in the past two presidential cycles. Organization is key to any chance Democrats have of turning Nevada blue.

And thankfully for them, there’s still a whole year to prove Democratic organization in Clark County is not an oxymoron.

Surf Nevada

On “Cyber Monday” I visited various presidential Web sites for a look at their Nevada pages.

On the Republican side of the aisle, Mitt Romney’s attention to the Silver State is golden. Not only does the section have a local blog and information about how to get connected to the campaign and events, it also reminds Republicans they have until Dec. 19 to register for the caucus.

Rep. Ron Paul’s Nevada site is also well done, with similar information about the registration deadline and caucus process. He even stresses Nevada in his end-of-year fundraising pitch.

After five minutes on Rudy Giuliani’s official site, I couldn’t even find a special page for Iowa and New Hampshire, let alone Nevada.

John McCain is still building his Nevada team. His site asks you to fill out a form.

Fred Thompson’s been here, but he doesn’t list Nevada as an early state. Mike Huckabee has no Nevada focus; he’s spending his small capital in bigger Iowa.

On the Democratic side, most candidates have Nevada-specific sites, with Sen. Hillary Clinton (who else) taking the cake. Clinton’s site has numerous photos of her numerous events here. Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen’s endorsement is prominently featured, as are links to five specific Nevada coalitions for Clinton.

Sen. Barack Obama is “en la radio en Nevada.” He understands the local lingo, with a reference to “over the hump in Pahrump” and is outwardly encouraging all those restless Californians to come here in his “Drive to Nevada.” Utahns and Idahoans are also invited to hit Elko in mid-December for an organizing push.

John Edwards, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Joe Biden each have Nevada-passable sites, with less pizzazz than Clinton or Obama.

If the “Cyber Monday” winners are any indication of early-state votes, a Clinton-Romney match-up would emerge.

Then again, that’s why it’s called “cyber.” The real proof comes at caucus and primary time.

Contact Erin Neff at eneff@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2906.

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