March 8, 2008— -- Barack Obama won the Democratic caucuses today in Wyoming, a state the party's presidential candidates often overlook, but that in this nail-biter of a race saw heavy campaigning by both Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Obama came away with 61 percent of the vote to Clinton's 38 percent.
Democrats in Wyoming get little respect. The sparsely populated red state is home to just 218,000 thousand voters, most of them Republicans, like Wyoming's own Dick Cheney.
But this year, Clinton and Obama eagerly glad-handed voters across the state because even Wyoming -- with its 12 delegates -- counts.
The excitement about the Democratic race was evident at the Teton County Caucus, held in Jackson. Originally scheduled for the Virginian motel, the caucus had to be moved to the larger Snow King Resort to accommodate the crowds that turned out.
In previous years, no more than 200 Democrats had ever turned out in Teton County, but this year Democratic State Committee chairwoman Lesley Peterson estimated the overflow crowd at 1000 or more by early evening.
The high turnout among Wyoming Democrats is more evidence of how tight the race is between Clinton and Obama nationwide.
A Newsweek poll released Friday found the rival candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in a statistical dead heat, with 45 percent of registered Democrats and Democratic leanings favoring Obama, and 44 percent favoring Clinton.
That marks the latest pendulum swing in a race that last year saw Clinton as the all-but-inevitable Democratic candidate, to Obama's decisive lead during a sweep of February primary states. The poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,215 registered voters March 5-6.
The Newsweek poll also shows neither candidate has an edge when it comes to voters' number-one concern: The foundering economy, with 43 percent favoring Obama, 42 percent preferring Clinton.
The poll does show that seven in 10 Democrats want that dream team: Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama.
Today, former president Bill Clinton for the first time sent a clear signal that the Clinton campaign has given serious consideration to that dream ticket too, combining Obama's urban appeal and Clinton's rural appeal.
"You look at the map of Texas and the map in Ohio, and the map in Missouri," Clinton said during a campaign stop on his wife's behalf in Mississippi, "You look at most of these places -- he would win the urban areas and the upscale voters, and she wins the traditional rural areas that we lost when President Reagan was president. If you put those two things together, you'd have an almost unstoppable force."
Obama said Friday he's not interested in holding the No. 2 slot on a Democratic dream team.
"You won't see me as a vice presidential candidate," Obama said in a radio interview.
Despite talk of a dream team, the bitter tone of the campaign for the White House is likely to get worse, with Clinton on the offensive and Obama walking a fine line, talking tough while trying to remain above the mudslinging.
"She has to take him down," said Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg Political Report. "He has to respond, look tough."
If he does win the nomination, Obama will have to respond to Republicans, and to his conservative critics who pointedly refer to him using his full name, Barack Hussein Obama.
Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King gave a taste of what could lie ahead.
In an interview with KICD radio in Spencer, Iowa, the congressman virtually called him a terrorist ally.
"If he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters will be dancing in the streets," King said. "They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name."