** UPDATED 3/9 **
OBAMA DEFEATS CLINTON IN WYOMING: AP reports:
Sen. Barack Obama captured the Wyoming Democratic caucuses Saturday, seizing a bit of momentum in the close, hard-fought race with rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the party's presidential nomination.
Obama generally has outperformed Clinton in caucuses, which reward organization and voter passion more than do primaries. The Illinois senator has now won 13 caucuses to Clinton's three.
Obama has also shown strength in the Mountain West, winning Idaho, Utah, Colorado and now Wyoming. The two split Nevada, with Clinton winning the popular vote and Obama more delegates.
But Clinton threw some effort into Wyoming, perhaps hoping for an upset that would yield few delegates but considerable buzz and momentum. The New York senator campaigned Friday in Cheyenne and Casper. Former President Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, also campaigned this week in the sprawling and lightly populated state.
Obama campaigned in Casper and Laramie on Friday, but spent part of his time dealing with the fallout from an aide's harsh words about Clinton and suggestions that Obama wouldn't move as quickly to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq if elected. In Casper, Obama said Clinton had no standing to challenge his position on the war because she had voted to authorize it in 2002.
Clinton, buoyed by big wins in Ohio and Texas last Tuesday, said she faced an uphill fight in Wyoming. Her campaign also holds out little hope for Tuesday's primary in Mississippi, which has a large black population.
Obama had 58 percent, or 4,138 votes, to Clinton's 41 percent, or 2,876 votes with 21 of 23 Wyoming counties reporting.
Obama won at least seven delegates and Clinton won at least four, with one Wyoming delegate still to be awarded. In the overall race for the nomination, Obama led 1,578-1,467. It will take 2,025 delegates to win the Democratic nomination.
Both candidates were looking ahead to the bigger prize _ delegate-rich Pennsylvania on April 22.
From the first caucuses of the day, it became clear the state's Democrats were showing up in large numbers. In 2004, a mere 675 people statewide took part in the caucuses.
In Sweetwater County, more than 500 people crowded into a high school auditorium and another 500 were lined up to get inside.
"I'm worried about where we're going to put them all. But I guess everybody's got the same problem," said Joyce Corcoran, a local party official. "So far we're OK. But man, they keep coming."
Party officials were struggled with how to handle the overflow crowds. The start of the Converse County caucus was delayed due to long lines.
In Cheyenne, scores of late arrivers were turned away when party officials stopped allowing people to get in line at 11 a.m. EST. A party worker stood at the end of the line with a sign reading, "End of the line. Caucus rules require the voter registration process to be closed at this time."
State party spokesman Bill Luckett said they were obligated to follow its rules as well as those of the Democratic National Committee regarding caucus procedures.
"Everybody knew the registration began over an hour before the caucus was called to order. We've done everything we could to accommodate people in the long lines," Luckett said.
After initially accepting provisional ballots from about 20 people who remained behind at the caucus site, party officials said they and both campaigns had decided not to count those votes. John Millin, state party chair, said doing so would have been unfair to those who had left after being turned away.
In Casper, home of the state party's headquarters, hundreds were lined up at the site of the Natrona County caucus. The location was a hotel meeting room with a capacity of 500. Some 7,700 registered Democrats live in the county.
"We'll have to put 'em in the grass after a while," said Bob Warburton, a local party official.
About 59,000 registered Democrats are eligible to participate in Wyoming's caucuses.
Only in the last few weeks have the campaigns stepped up their presence in Wyoming, opening offices and calling voters and sending mailers.
Although a win in Wyoming may not persuade many superdelegates, it will be one more prize for the candidates as they make their case for the nomination.
Clinton has hinted recently that if she wins the nomination she would consider sharing the ticket with Obama. But in an interview Friday in Wyoming with KTVQ-TV, a CBS affiliate based in Billings, Mont., Obama shied away from that possibility.
"Well, you know, I think it's premature. You won't see me as a vice presidential candidate _ you know, I'm running for president," Obama told the television station. "We have won twice as many states as Senator Clinton, and have a higher popular vote, and I think we can maintain our delegate count.
"What I am really focused on right now, because all that stuff is premature, is winning this nomination and changing the country. I think that's what people here are concerned about."
Turnout Strong In Wyoming: NYT reports on the big crowds at today's caucuses, which end at 6 PM ET:
"At times it's lonely being a Democrat in Wyoming," John Millin, the chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party, said this morning.
By 7:30 a.m., an hour and a half before the Laramie County caucus was set to begin, the line to enter the caucus site snaked for blocks through downtown Cheyenne.
Betty Jo Beardsley, a party aide, glanced at the throng of people swarming the registration table.
Is turnout higher than expected?, she was asked.
"Oh, God," she replied.
No official word on the numbers yet. But in Laramie County, population 80,000, officials expected at least 2,000 people to show up at the caucus.
In A Numbers Game Every Contest Matters: The AP notes:
Twelve delegates will be awarded in Wyoming's caucuses, followed by 33 on Tuesday in Mississippi.
The relatively small number of delegates in these states, not seen as important weeks ago, have gained value now that the race is down to a numbers game, following Clinton's triple-win this week in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island, where she narrowed the gap with Obama.
Clinton Tries To Lower Expectations: AP reports:
"I said, 'Well you know what, I'm going to go to Wyoming anyway _ I know it's an uphill climb, I'm aware of that," Clinton told an audience of more than 1,500 at a community college in Cheyenne. "But, you see, I am a fighter, and I believe it's worth fighting for your votes."
Wyoming Stunned By Presidential Attention: "Some Democrats here say they have never seen a political mood swing so overwhelming or so fast -- from the status quo of irrelevance to full kiss-kiss campaign embrace, in nothing flat," the New York Times reports.
"I have never had a period of compressed political intensity like these last 48 hours," Kathleen M. Karpan, a longtime Democratic activist and former Wyoming secretary of state, said Thursday. Ms. Karpan, who supports Mrs. Clinton, of New York, took a week off from her law practice to help with last minute details before Saturday.
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.
Bill Clinton Campaigns: The Casper Star-Tribune: In Laramie, Wyo., Bill Clinton spoke on behalf of his wife to a crowd of about 2,000 about how "the Iraq war has nearly broken the American military." The event took place at a small University of Wyoming gymnasium next to the 15,000-seat Arena-Auditorium where Sen. Barack Obama will speak at 7:15 p.m. today. Hundreds of people who had stood in line for hours in the 20-degree afternoon air were turned away because of a lack of space in the UniWyo Sports Complex, where the volleyball and wrestling teams compete. Clinton spoke for 58 minutes and then shook hands for another half hour before his motorcade left for the airport.
Tickets are sold out to today's Obama town hall, but there are still some available to the 15,000-seater.
Clinton, Obama Up With Ads: "Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois both have 60-second radio advertisements in the state," the New York Times reports.
Mrs. Clinton's spot touts her plan for universal health care coverage. It features the story of Barbara Marzelli of New Hampshire, whose 10-year-old son has major heart problems but has benefited from the children's health insurance program that she championed.
"I've met her, I've read her health care plan," says Ms. Marzelli, who is also featured at among the "Hillary I Know" videos. "I remember walking up to her and saying, 'I would feel a lot more safe if you were president than I have in many, many years."
Mr. Obama's advertisement has some Wyoming-specific language and includes a subtle dig at the Clinton years.
"All across America, people are working hard, doing the best they can," Mr. Obama says. "But for decades now, while Wall Street has prospered, most Americans have been running in place."
An announcer says Mr. Obama would "close corporate tax loopholes so we can cut taxes for working families and start small business in Wyoming so our kids don't have to leave home to follow their dreams."