NWN video of the second Nevada Presidential forum, the second in the 2008
Democratic race, featuring former North Carolina Senator John Edwards,
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, and
New York Senator Hillary Clinton. *
It’s the victory of Horace Greeley. The 19th century newspaper editor and presidential candidate famously advised, “Go west,” and so today’s presidential candidates have. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani were both in California over the weekend.
Giuliani visited a diner in Oakland and fundraised in Orange County and San Diego. Clinton raised an amazing $2.6 million at a Hollywood fundraiser at billionaire Ron Burkle’s Green Acres estate and picked up another million bucks in Silicon Valley. The New York senator and former first lady more than answered the challenge laid down last month by Barack Obama’s Hollywood fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton, principally organized by billionaire David Geffen, who then notoriously ripped the Clintons in a catty Maureen Dowd New York Times column. Geffen’s business partner, director Steven Spielberg, has a fundraiser for Clinton next month at his home.
Meanwhile, Nevada Republicans are in the process of moving their presidential caucus up to match the Democrats’ second-in-the-nation contest on January 19th. They’ve seen how much attention the Silver State is suddenly getting and want in on the action.
In addition to all that, all but one of the Democratic presidential candidates were in Nevada Friday and Saturday, participating all on the same stage Saturday in a forum focused on health care issues at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV). (Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, who did well at the first Nevada forum last month in Carson City, couldn’t make it to this one.)
John Edwards impressed again with his detail and presentation, and received much sympathy throughout for the plight of his wife Elizabeth, who was in attendance. Barack Obama showed tremendous presence, but the “Politics of Hope” has its limits. Bill Richardson was fine, but this is not his strongest issue. Hillary Clinton was much better than she was in last month’s forum in Carson City and appeard to be the favorite of the mostly labor crowd. She was quite free-wheeling and knowing. In fact, she sounded suspiciously like her husband the President.
I shot about an hour-and-a-half of footage inside the hall with the candidates and have produced the 10-minute video above showing highlights and flavor of this second Nevada Democratic presidential forum.
As you can see, Clinton and Edwards got the best responses from the largely labor crowd Saturday morning at UNLV. Edwards has by far the most detailed program to date. He would mostly retain the form of the current system in his transition to universal health care, although consumers would have the option of choosing a single-payer system, seeking greater efficiencies through more use of technology, electronic records keeping, and more affordable drug purchasing programs. He says this will require new revenue, and describes the need to acknowledge this as a test of presidential character. How much more revenue? $90 to $120 billion per year. How would he pay for it? By repealing President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy.
Edwards also garnered tremendous sympathy from the crowd and the other candidates for the cancer crisis that he and his wife Elizabeth, who was in attendance, are now going through.
The other top Democratic candidates were more vague in their programs. Bill Richardson seemed somewhat improvisational on stage, although perhaps that is a mark of his style. He said that universal health care could be achieved by the end of his first year as president, without additional cost. Also calling for mental health to be covered, Richardson was asked about the inclusion of illegal immigrants in any universal health care plan, a controversial aspect, as was noted by moderator Karen Tumulty of Time magazine, of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal in California. “They’re children,” replied Richardson, to big applause from the audience.
Barack Obama began with tremendous presence and verve. But as you can see from the video, he does not yet have a program and he rather swiftly came down from the high of his entrance to a set of high-flown yet rather ambiguous principles. He said he would not rule out a tax increase to achieve universal health care, which he has taken of late to saying he would achieve by the end of his first term to distinguish himself from frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s vow of achieving it by the end of her second term.
For her part, Senator Clinton probably ended with the best response from the crowd. Reminiscent of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who was not in attendance, the former first lady moved around the stage and was in a knowing, semi-folksy, frequently wisecracking mode. “I have the scars,” she declared of her unsuccessful 1990s drive for universal health care, as the crowd laughed.
Saying that too many Americans have health coverage that doesn’t actually cover them as she recounted the story of a nurse she met last week in Texas who makes $38,000 a year and spent half that treating her illness, Clinton vowed that she would make insurance companies actually provide the coverage they promise. Noting that the Human Genome Project will soon reveal that “We all have pre-existing conditions,” she said that it is especially important that pre-existing conditions no longer be a bar to coverage.
In the latest Nevada poll, Clinton leads the Democratic presidential field, with Barack Obama second, John Edwards third, and Bill Richardson pulling up into fourth.
Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel also participated in the forum. The farther away the candidates get from the lead in the field, the more embracing they are of single-payer health care.
Meanwhile, noting the attention that Democratic presidential candidates are paying the state and not wanting to be left out, Nevada state Republican leaders have informally decided in a conference call to move their state presidential caucuses up again, this time to the same January 19th date that their Democratic counterparts have. The decision must be taken formally by the state Republican executive board and the party’s state central committee next month, but that is expected. Republican Governor Jim Gibbons is on board with the plan.
This move, assuming it is formally adopted, will make Nevada the second contest in the Republican presidential race, as it is now in the Democratic presidential race. It will also lead to a substantial penalty in delegates to the Republican National Convention from the Silver State, as it is against national party rules, but the numbers aren’t that big to begin with.
They’re all coming west now, for the early caucus in Nevada and the early primary in California. Horace Greeley would be proud. Of course, he is long dead. Having ended up losing control of his newspaper, Greeley died not long after being driven mad by his losing presidential campaign. I’m sure this will end up much better.
* Thanks to the Las Vegas Presidential forum sponsors — the Service Employees International Union, the Center for American Progress, and the Nevada Democratic Party — for allowing NWN video coverage of the event itself, something not possible at last month’s forum in Carson City.