Drunkblogging South Carolina and Nevada

Clinton doesn't need SC, but if she can beat Obama there, he might be viewed as the Not Quite Candidate. And in that case, just go ahead to the coronation of Queen Hill in Denver. So, yeah, it's gonna get nasty next week. Fun!

How'd the press do? I dunno -- they were so absent that mostly I read the blogs and sometimes took the mute button off from CNN and Fox.

6:00 pm PST -- Vodkapundit calls it for McCain

The prestigious VodkaPundit News Service is going to go ahead and call South Carolina for McCain. We do this based on some stuff we've seen and read, with a healthy dollop of gut feeling.

In other words, you can take that to the bank. And if the bank won't take it, you're on your own.

The race is on for third place, and Romney has got to be kicking himself for leaving early for Florida. Had he stuck around, Thompson almost certainly would have come in fourth place and been forced out. And Huckabee would have looked like a stronger opponent to Romney's top rival, McCain. As it is, it's looking like Romney is going to come in a (very, very close) fourth place, and McCain ought to win by an almost-comfy three or four points.

You read it here first, at 9:00 PM Eastern.

VodkaPundit News Service and Pajamas Media. "Fast. Not entirely unthorough. Frequently mostly correct."

5:50 pm PST

On Fox, Bill Kristol thinks that Mitt Romney may have inadvertently helped McCain in SC. Romney took off for Florida a couple days ago, leaving nothing behind in SC except for some TV ads. Local voters noticed, and about 5% of them went elsewhere -- presumably mostly to arch-rival McCain.

Meanwhile, I haven't found much media to criticize. I haven't found much media, period. Fox and CNN are doing what they usually do -- carpet-bombing lots of polling places with prettyish reporter people. But the Big Three networks? I can't channel hop fast enough to find much coverage on the Big Three. My local PBS station is running a Lawrence Welk Show so old that the champagne is warm and flat.

If the Big Three wonder why their news divisions lose money and audience share every year, maybe it's because they don't cover much news anymore

5:45 pm PST

With 46% of SC precincts reporting, we have two interesting trends. Look:

MCCAIN... 33%

HUCKABEE... 29%

THOMPSON... 16%

ROMNEY... 14%

PAUL... 4%

GIULIANI... 2%

McCain and Huckabee are both losing ground, and Thompson has moved up to third place. Another thing to watch is, the Bible Belt's own Bible Belt is just starting to report in, which could put Huckabee over the top.

5:40 pm PST

On Fox, Bill Kristol thinks that Mitt Romney may have inadvertently helped McCain in SC. Romney took off for Florida a couple days ago, leaving nothing behind in SC except for some TV ads. Local voters noticed, and about 5% of them went elsewhere -- presumably mostly to arch-rival McCain.

Meanwhile, I haven't found much media to criticize. I haven't found much media, period. Fox and CNN are doing what they usually do -- carpet-bombing lots of polling places with prettyish reporter people. But the Big Three networks? I can't channel hop fast enough to find much coverage on the Big Three. My local PBS station is running a Lawrence Welk Show so old that the champagne is warm and flat.

If the Big Three wonder why their news divisions lose money and audience share every year, maybe it's because they don't cover much news anymore.

5:08 pm PST

Fred Thompson isn't quitting, but where he finds the money and votes to continue is a mystery. I doubt he'll still be in the race come Super Duper Tuesday on Feb 5.

Meanwhile, the numbers shake out like this so far:

MCCAIN... 35%

HUCKABEE... 30%

ROMNEY... 14%

THOMPSON... 15%

PAUL... 4%

GIULIANI... 3%

With 12% of precincts reporting, McCain's lead is looking more solid.

4:58 pm PST

"It's never been about me... it's been about our country."

Thompson's speech sounds an awful lot like a concession speech. Not for South Carolina, but for the nomination.

His he dropping out as early as 7:58 PM Eastern?

4:57 pm PST

"It may be a little early to declare victory..." Fred Thompson joking with the crowds in South Carolina. Some jokes aren't very funny.

4:39 pm PST

OVERHEARD. Bill Bennett on CNN, opining on Fred Thompson's apparent fourth place showing: "If you're a southern conservative and you can't make it in South Carolina, it's over."

4:33 pm PST

This Just In, Although Kind of Sad.

Matt Drudge has these numbers above the mast:

0.08% REPUBLICANS: SOUTH CAROLINA...

MCCAIN... 33.39%

HUCKABEE... 26.8%

ROMNEY... 19.7%

THOMPSON... 10.4%

PAUL... 5.66%

GIULIANI... 2.96%

What's so funny? That 0.08% of districts reporting is probably a smaller sample than the exit polls.

4:08 pm PST

Update: Also Just In. One of CNN's analysts claims that Obama might get one more delegate out of Nevada than Clinton will, even though Clinton won over half the vote.

So the next time you hear some aging Boomer -- er, 2000 Gore supporter -- bemoan the electoral college, just remind them that the Democrats seem to like winner-take-all geographical rules , too

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Just in. Brit Hume, squinting, says that exit polls have SC as John McCain 32%, Mike Huckabee 27%, and Ron Paul left wondering why Internet robo-spammers can't win him just one freakin' real world primary already.

3:59 pm PST

I plugged Rasmussen Reports tracking polls in my last dispatch, so let's take a look at their final Republican numbers from South Carolina. They look like this:

John McCain -- 24%

Mike Huckabee -- 24%

Mitt Romney -- 18%

Fred Thompson -- 16%

Ron Paul -- 5%

Rudy Giuliani -- 3%

In just a couple-three hours, we'll have real results to compare with the polls.

3:24 pm PST

Update: Overheard: Fred Barnes says that Rudy Giulliani might already be already winning in Florida, thanks to "early bird specials." Er, that's "early voters" dropping their absentee ballots in the mail. Rudy's been working them hard apparently, as part of his Bet Everything on Florida as a Springboard Strategy.

Also, I've long been a fan of Barnes and his "Beltway Boys" partner Mort Kondracke. But really, can a couple of old political hands, who have covered every election since Warren Harding in whatever year that was, call themselves "Beltway Boys?" And why would they want to? Somebody's agent lost a coinflip when they left CNN, I bet.

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Returns will start coming in from South Carolina's Republican primary in just under an hour. If any of the exit polls have leaked, I haven't been able to find them. They certainly aren't anywhere near the bottom of my Bloody Mary glass, which is where I've spent most of my time looking. But don't worry -- we're going to start looking in other places, such as my favorite scotch glass, in just a few minutes.

If the Rasmussen tracking polls can be relied on -- and they're a heck of a lot better than most anything put out by John Zogby -- then today will probably prove just one thing. Namely, that Democratic primary voters are, this year at least, lots smarter than the Republicans. The Democrats have taken their worst candidates and disposed of them pretty quickly. And their worst semi-electable candidate, John Edwards, has been given his hat and nudged towards the door.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have five serious candidates. Mitt Romney, who used to be a liberal before he was a ("I Swear!") conservative. Rudy Giulliani, ditto. John McCain, who makes George W. Bush look like a small-government guy. Mike Huckabee, a big-taxing, big-spending nanny-stater who shares his bleeding heart foreign policy and religious views with Jimmy Carter. And Fred Thompson, an honest-to-goodness conservative in the mold of Calvin Coolidge.

And who do Republicans primary voters actually like? Anybody but Fred, it seems.

We'll know more starting at 7 PM Eastern, or about half a cocktail from right... now!

1:10 pm PST

CNN is projecting Clinton the winner in Nevada, a full 29 minutes after the presitgious VodkaPundit News Service.

Cowards.

For the fastest primary day news, stay tuned in to VodkaPundit and Pajamas Media.

Fast. Not entirely unthorough. Frequently mostly correct.

12:52 pm PST

At 3:39 PM Eastern Standard Time, Hillary Clinton was declared the winner of the Nevada Caucus by the prestigious VodkaPundit News Service.

No surprise, really -- even Barack Obama's manager is all-but-claiming that the fix was in:

And now, according to Jon Ralston, allies of the Clinton Campaign may be planning to challenge voters at the at-large precincts. It is a sad day when Democrats start trying to suppress the vote of other Democrats.

Beginning with the lawsuit filed by their allies to suppress turnout among union members, the Clinton Campaign has been engaged in a systematic effort to discredit the process - a process which was pushed, developed, and approved by their supporters at the Democratic National Committee and in Nevada. It wasn't until Obama began gaining strength in a state they expected to win by at least 20 points that they began their attempts to delegitimize the process.

Somebody call the Nevada Gaming Commission.

12:35 pm PST

Update: It's almost time to call Nevada for Hillary, who seems to be the second choice of Edwards supporters. With almost a quarter of precincts reporting, Clinton is up to 49.21%, Obama has slipped under 45%, and Edwards (the source, I'd wager, of Clinton's surge) is down to 5.37%.

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It's a real squeaker in Nevada on the Democratic side. Drudge has the numbers at 46.35% for Hillary Clinton, 45.925% for Barack Obama, and 6.01% for John Edwards. OK, so it's no so much a squeaker for Edwards, who must be feeling like the third wheel in the Clinton/Obama lovefest. In Vegas, thankfully, you don't have to pay extra for that. CNN has 1% for Dennis Kucinich, proving that you really can get anything in Vegas.

Other good news: Hookers on the strip are offering their Caucus Special -- two Clintons for the price of one.

Fox News just dialed in with new numbers, showing Obama at 48% and Clinton at 45%. But that's with only 3% of precincts reporting, so don't pin anything on anybody yet. Except if you like you can pin a big loser "L" on Edwards.

What's going on in South Carolina? Despite it being three hours later there than Nevada, we don't have any numbers or exit polls or even any distraught looks on the face of Katie Couric or bogus fraud claims from the mouth of Al Sharpton. There are, however, some claims already of voting problems:

According to poll workers, the turnout at my polling place, the Pontiac precinct in Richland County, was "steady." But when I was there, it was quite sparse with only about six voters in line and one or two casting ballots. And that was a little over an hour ago... the peak voting time.

I expect turnout will remain "steady" due to the "steady" rain and "steady" crappy weather. Not sure if this is good or bad news for anyone. Accounts from other precincts are about the same.

Hat tip, Instapundit.

As I finish up this dispatch, CNN now has almost 12% of Nevada precincts in, with Clinton around 48, Obama near 45, and Edwards down under 6. If they don't like a chiseler in Vegas, just where can Edwards win?

Wolf Blitzer showed that in Nevada, John McCain and Ron Paul are fighting it out for (a very distant) second place. Nevada, of course, is probably the most libertarian state this side of New Hampshire. Still, it's hard to believe Paul is doing so well on a Saturday morning. I'd fully expected the local hookers to still be sleeping in after a busy Friday night.

10:26 am PST

Well, that was less than exciting.

Fox News just called the Nevada Republican Caucus for Mitt Romney, and it's still brunch time at the Vegas all-you-can-eat buffets. The mountains of scrambled eggs are probably even still warm. If I were there, I'd be providing live coverage from the Bloody Mary bar.

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton claims he personally witnessed voter suppression in the Democratic Caucus. From The Politico:

Today when my daughter and I were wandering through the hotel, and all these culinary workers were mobbing us telling us they didn't care what the union told them to do, they were gonna caucus for Hillary.

There was a representative of the organization following along behind us going up to everybody who said that, saying 'if you're not gonna vote for our guy were gonna give you a schedule tomorrow so you can't be there.' So, is this the new politics? I haven't seen anything like that in America in 35 years. So I will say it again - they think they're better than you.

Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Of course, "our guy" in this case would be Barack Obama, who was endorsed by one of the big Vegas unions. Hey, at least no one has gotten buried in a hole out in the desert, Casino-style. But the day is young.