Sate Democrats Fail To Draw Candidate's Attention

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Nevada Democrats moved up the date of their caucuses in hopes of garnering greater attention from presidential candidates.

But as they prepare to hold caucuses Saturday, state party leaders are uncertain whether they'll get a single visit from Democratic front-runner John Kerry or his chief rivals.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe has said Nevada Democrats can expect to have visits from "two, maybe three" viable presidential candidates by Saturday.

But Kerry's schedule is planned only a few days in advance, and no Nevada visits were planned, spokesman Dag Vega said.

State Sen. Terry Care, Nevada co-chair for Kerry's campaign, was uncertain about Kerry's plans.

"I would love to see him (in Nevada)," Care told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "He has made it a practice to go into every state."

Other major Democratic candidates, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, also had no immediate plans to visit Nevada this week.

Presidential candidates rarely spend much time in Nevada because it offers only five electoral votes, said David Damore, political science professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

"They didn't make it much of a destination site in 2000, either," he said.

Eric Herzik, political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, agreed: "Nevada will be bypassed by the candidates except for the classic tarmac politics" of fundraisers at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

Damore isn't predicting a huge turnout for Nevada's caucuses, especially if Kerry wins Tuesday's primaries in Virginia and Tennessee.

Although Nevada's 37 delegates to the Democratic national convention aren't chosen until the state convention in April, a straw poll at the caucuses will indicate who has the most support.

Damore said the November election will be the real battle because Republicans hold only a slight edge over Democrats. Nevada has voted for the winner in the last three presidential elections.

The state's largest union has made no endorsement in the race so far.

"It's early in the game, and we'll end up supporting anybody who becomes the Democratic nominee," said Glen Arnato of Culinary Local 226 of Las Vegas.