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Presidential Race Focuses on Wyoming Caucuses

STEVEN INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Nobody expected the state of Wyoming to have much influence over the presidential nominating process. Just 12 Democratic Party delegates are at stake in Wyoming, one-third of 1 percent of the nationwide total. And yet when Wyoming Democrats hold their caucuses tomorrow it'll be hard fought. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are campaigning hard in another sign of an incredibly close race.

From Laramie, NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY: Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have opened campaign offices all across this sprawling state. And they aren't just parachuting in for one brief event. They plan to hold several rallies in town halls today. Barack Obama's rally in Casper already has run out of tickets. And here's something else Wyoming voters aren't used to.

(Soundbite of campaign ad)

Unidentified Woman: I remember walking up to her and saying I would feel a lot more safe if you were president than I have in many, many years.

BRADY: Campaign ads directed specifically at the 60,000 Democrats who live in this state.

(Soundbite of campaign ad)

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): I'm Hillary Clinton, candidate for president, and I approved this message.

BRADY: As Saturday approaches, all the excitement has prompted some to hit the streets for their candidate.

(Soundbite of knocking)

Lucinda McCarvin(ph) and Rob Breeland(ph) aren't catching very many people at home, so they hang dark blue Obama cards on door handles ahead of tomorrow's caucuses.

Mr. ROB BREELAND: This is kind of like a reminder, don't forget to be there no later than like 8:30. When the gavel comes down at 9:00, you can't participate if you're not in line.

BRADY: Breeland is in the military. McCarvin does mental healthcare work with the elderly in nursing homes. She says even her patients are not immune from the excitement surrounding this race.

Ms. LUCINDA MCCARVIN: And there is a really strong following of the political stories among the residents there, even though some of them are in their 80s or 90s.

BRADY: The past few years have been good for Democrats in Wyoming, even though the state is 60 percent Republican. In 2006, voters overwhelmingly reelected Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal. He's not endorsed either of his party's presidential nominees. In fact, he's said several times that he doesn't like anyone who's running. His spokeswoman says as a superdelegate Freudenthal will meet with both of the candidates if his schedule allows.

That sort of independence appeals to Wyoming voters. That and the fact Freudenthal is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights. Both Obama and Clinton support increased limits on gun ownership.

Democrat Kathy Karpan served two terms as Wyoming's secretary of state and is a Clinton supporter. She says supporting gun rights is key to getting elected here regardless of party.

Here's what she thinks Clinton should say if asked about gun rights.

Ms. KATHY KARPAN: I understand your perspective. I know what the cultural values are out here, and we're not going to come in and be knocking on every door and taking your gun. Because if you don't define yourself as understanding those values, your enemy will define you. And they'll say Hillary Clinton will come and take your shotgun.

BRADY: Karpan says Clinton also should talk about protecting wild places while still keeping the booming gas and coal industries thriving.

In downtown Cheyenne, even Republicans are excited about the Democratic caucuses tomorrow in Wyoming. Scott McDonald has been watching the news closely the last few days.

Mr. SCOTT MCDONALD: It's good to see the Democratic presidential nominees thinking Wyoming's important, even if we only 12 votes in it.

BRADY: In this race, even 12 delegates to the nominating convention are important. With only 100 separating Obama and Clinton, every delegate counts.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Laramie, Wyoming. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
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