Tags: clinton | obama | wyoming

Hillary, Obama Take on the Wild West

Friday, 07 Mar 2008 09:14 PM

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Wyoming, a staunch Republican state dubbed "cowboy country," is lassoed into the Democratic White House fight Saturday as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama seek to tie down its 12 delegates.

The western state, where the peaks of the Rocky Mountains descend to the Great Plains, is a strange place for the Democrats to be shooting it out, given that it is unashamedly Republican.

A stronghold of Vice President Dick Cheney and once home to Buffalo Bill, Wyoming has the smallest population of any of the states in the union with just 500,000 people.

Home to breath-taking natural wonders such as the Yellowstone National Park with its grizzly bears, it is more used to attracting hordes of camera-laden tourists than packs of television crews following a presidential campaign.

It was also the setting for the 2005 powerful Oscar-winning movie "Brokeback Mountain," which told the controversial tale of a gay love affair between two cowboys.

But now unexpectedly, the state has become the next battleground in the tight Clinton-Obama standoff as the two White House hopefuls chase every last delegate to the party's nomination convention in August.

Eight weeks into the campaign, neither candidate has emerged as the clear winner to be nominated the party's candidate to take on Republican John McCain in the November polls.

And although neither has yet set foot in the state, both candidates were due to address rallies in Wyoming on Friday as they seek to win over voters. And the voters seem to be reveling in suddenly being the center of attention.

A record 2,000 people turned out for a campaign rally late Thursday by former president Bill Clinton at which he promised his wife would address Wyoming concerns such as harnessing wind energy and small businesses.

Just a few miles away, daughter Chelsea Clinton was addressing students in Casper College.

"It's a rare opportunity to see any kind of politics in Wyoming," student Ryan O'Donnell told the Casper Star Tribune newspaper.

Wyoming observers however were divided over which of the two candidates would score the bull's eye in the Saturday caucuses, although Obama has outgunned Clinton in virtually every caucus already held.

Cheyenne political scientist Dave Marcum told the Star-Tribune daily that he thought Obama had the edge thanks to a series of savvy radio and newspaper ads addressing Wyoming vote concerns.

"When it comes to Hillary, there's this almost irrational kind of response to her and her candidacy," he told the paper.

Only 25 percent of the electorate is registered as Democrats or some 60,000 people, and there are only 12 delegates at stake here. Seven delegates will be allocated proportionally in Saturday's vote with another five to be distributed on May 24.

Strangely enough in this most conservative of states, the governor Dave Freundenthal is a Democrat and has not endorsed either of the two candidates so far. The head of the local Democratic Party John Millin is supporting Obama though.

Each of the 23 districts is holding a caucus with the first opening its doors at 9:00 am (1600 GMT). The last one will close around 6:00 pm (0100 GMT).

© 2008 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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