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Democratic Attention Turns to Wyoming

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The next Democratic contest comes this Saturday in Wyoming which means the country's least populous state will see a bit of a population surge in the next two days as attention and resources shift to the Cowboy State. Chad Baldwin is state editor for the Casper Star-Tribune. And Mr. Baldwin, can you feel the excitement level building out there?

Mr. CHAD BALDWIN (State Editor, Casper Star-Tribune): Certainly the - there are lots of people who are pretty excited, yes. There are Democrats in Wyoming who haven't had a lot to be excited about for quite a while who are very excited. You know, under 60,000 registered Democrats in this state, I don't know what the turnout will be. We get some indications that it could be pretty high. But in Wyoming on some of these counties, a couple of hundred people might be a great turnout.

BLOCK: Have they seen attention like this before?

Mr. BALDWIN: Not in my memory. Actually, not in my lifetime could I recall anything like this at all. The last time that Wyoming Democrats made a difference in the Democratic presidential nomination was, I believe, 1960 when they put JFK over the top of the convention.

BLOCK: Well, which candidates are there now or headed your way?

Mr. BALDWIN: Well, both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton will be here tomorrow. They have a couple of appearances scheduled, both of them. And both Bill and Chelsea Clinton are in this state today speaking at a number of locations.

BLOCK: And what do polls show about who is ahead in Wyoming?

Mr. BALDWIN: Well, to my knowledge, there hasn't been a great deal of public polling. We did a poll in January where we simply looked at favorable or unfavorable ratings for candidates, and Senator Obama scored better than did Senator Clinton. It's a bit of a mystery as to exactly where things stand now.

BLOCK: The practice, so far, has been pretty much that in caucus states, like yours, that Barack Obama has a better organization and he tends to win.

Mr. BALDWIN: I think we've seen that to an extent in Wyoming that the Obama campaign was here earlier and in bigger numbers, how they have more offices. But just in these last few days, the Clinton campaign has raised its level of activity and they think they have a chance.

BLOCK: Wyoming is, of course, a heavily Republican state, but you do have a very popular Democratic governor. And I'm wondering whether he has been doing anything on the order of what Ted Strickland did for Hillary Clinton in Ohio really helping her win that state.

Mr. BALDWIN: Well, it's funny. Governor Freudenthal has not endorsed anyone. And in fact, basically said that he didn't like any of the candidates and was even - was going to have to be persuaded to even attend the Democratic National Convention, which is in nearby Denver this year. But I wouldn't be surprised to see him perhaps take a position some time soon. I don't know if it'll be before Saturday though.

BLOCK: What's his beef with the candidates?

Mr. BALDWIN: His contention was that no one was really addressing important issues to the west.

BLOCK: I bet they'll be addressing those issues in the next two days.

Mr. BALDWIN: You bet. The Obama campaign has been sort of flooding the mailboxes of Democrats in Wyoming with some literature talking about energy issues. Of course, we're a big energy-producing state and the future of the coal industry is a vital interest to people here, and Senator Obama has addressed that issue - at least in that venue.

BLOCK: And what about Senator Clinton?

Mr. BALDWIN: You know, she has - she's airing radio ads now. I haven't seen any literature go out to Democrats from her campaign here. And to be honest, you know, the issues that are being discussed to this point are things like healthcare which are, you know, a nationwide interest. Nothing really specific from her campaign about issues that maybe unique to Wyoming.

BLOCK: When did you start seeing TV ads there in Wyoming?

Mr. BALDWIN: Just within the last couple of days.

BLOCK: Now, what are they pretty much focused on?

Mr. BALDWIN: To my knowledge, it's only Senator Obama who's on television now. And his ads had been similar to ones that have aired elsewhere about his stance on ethical issues, on lobbyist reform, that sort of thing.

BLOCK: So nobody's wearing a cowboy hat and sitting on a horse or anything like that?

Mr. BALDWIN: No. Not so far.

BLOCK: Give them time.

Mr. BALDWIN: You bet.

BLOCK: Well, Chad Baldwin, good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

Mr. BALDWIN: You bet you.

BLOCK: Chad Baldwin is state editor for the Casper Star-Tribune. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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