Nevada Caucuses Sees Record Turnout

Enthusiastic voters showed up in record numbers for Saturday's presidential caucuses in Nevada, surprising Democratic and Republican organizers who figured on lower turnouts.

More than 120,000 Democrats, nearly a third of all Nevada's registered Democrats, showed up at 520 precincts around the state. More than 42,000 Republicans, 10 percent of registered GOP voters, were on hand at 113 precincts.

"It's more than 10 times the number of people we had in 2004, and way more than double the number of people we expected to have today," Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirsten Searer said.

Democratic Party organizers had figured 40,000 to just over 70,000 people would attend the caucuses. On Friday, they cautiously upped their low turnout estimate to about 50,000.

Zack Moyle, executive director of the state Republican Party, said GOP organizers figured on 25,000 to 40,000 caucus goers at most.

"Overwhelming might be a good word," Moyle said of the roughly 42,000 participants at the GOP caucuses. "The bottom line is that we easily exceeded our expectations and we're absolutely thrilled."

Democrats' interest grew as major candidates such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, who won with 51 percent of the vote, and Barack Obama, who got 45 percent, and their surrogates, including former President Bill Clinton, toured all corners of the state.

Republicans' involvement also was helped by the Democratic candidates' appearances. The only major Republican candidate to spend much time in Nevada was Mitt Romney, and that paid off as he
trounced all other GOP contenders, getting 52 percent in precinct straw polls.

"I said from the get-go that the Democrats being here does not hurt us," Moyle said. "If anything, it helps us, because people see them in their backyards and they get fired up and give us a call and say, 'What can I do?"'

"That being said, Romney won this state because he spent the most time here. It just boils down to the state of Nevada and its voters really paying attention to the people who pay attention to us."

Searer said that with the big Democratic turnout "hopefully this solidifies our position as an early caucus state."

"We were lathered with candidate attention over the past week, and Nevada has never experienced anything like this before," Searer said. "So of course we're going to respond in kind."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-01-19-08 1831EST