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Why Wyoming?

Saturday, March 8th, 2008


Wyoming, a state with a rich history of equal rights, votes today in the next contest of this (super) delegate derby. There will be a caucus/convention in each of the state’s 23 counties, and we all know how caucuses can go. When it’s all said and done, 18 more delegates will be spoken for (of which 3 are superdelegates).

Wyoming is known as the “Equality State” because it was the first state to permit women to serve on juries, hold public office, and exercise suffrage. The state hasn’t seen this much attention surrounding a presidential election since John F. Kennedy was campaigning for the White House in 1960, the state put him over the top in the delegate count and allowed him to clinch the nomination. Yesterday, the Denver Post looked back at what the delegate selection process looked like then:

Mike Vinich, now 84, was a Kennedy delegate that year. He had known Kennedy during World War II, when “I jumped on his PT boat with a wounded Marine,” he recalled.

Nearly two decades later, he had his chance to repay “the man who saved my life.” The floor belonged to Wyoming, Kennedy needed 13 delegates to clinch the nomination, and “we had 15 delegate votes,” Vinich said.

He said he hollered at his fellow delegates to put Kennedy over the top until the delegation chairman abruptly “gave all 15 votes, didn’t even take a head count. The balloons went down, the band went up.”

Let’s hope that is not how it happens this time around. The New York Times reported yesterday that for Wyoming Democrats are preparing for the caucuses, usually a quiet affair, to get wild:

Around the state, caucus locations are being moved from living rooms to meeting halls. Here in Laramie County, the most populous, Democrats reserved the Cheyenne Civic Center, which will seat up to 1,500 people for an event that in the past has drawn maybe 250.

T-minus 30 minutes until the caucuses begin. The big question: given all the trouble with caucuses we’ve seen, is a Saturday caucus more convenient, accessible and reliable than a weekday caucus? Stay tuned.

Photo by Kevin Moloney for The New York Times

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