Union Be Damned

Make no mistake, Hillary Clinton’s projected win in the Nevada caucuses is a big deal. Not because she won—polls had her in the lead going into the caucus–but because the culinary union failed.

After Barack Obama’s win in Iowa and his defeat in New Hampshire, Nevada’s culinary workers’ union endorsed Barack Obama—a move that pundits, aides, and staffers all said greatly boosted Obama’s chances and maybe even guaranteed a win. But something seems to have gone wrong.

Latinos make up a large but undetermined portion of the culinary union, yet they favored Clinton over Obama 2.5 to 1, a loss that is foreboding for Obama as he moves forward and may have doomed him in Nevada. Moreover, Obama lost to Clinton in Clark County, where a large majority of Nevadans live and where the union has especially large sway because of its epicenter in Las Vegas. Even the controversial at-large caucus sites couldn’t help Obama beat Clinton. Clinton’s camp said that the at-large sites may give Obama a 5-point jump in the results, but it doesn’t seem that ended up happening. If it did, then Obama has even bigger problems than he thought.

Clinton may have Harry Reid’s son to thank for overcoming the union’s power. Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid endorsed Clinton early on and seems to have delivered enough establishment support to sap the union’s strength. With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Clark County chose Clinton over Obama 54 percent to 44 percent.

One last tidbit: Clinton had more than twice the number of Nevada unions supporting her as either Obama or John Edwards. They weren’t as large as Obama’s, but union members may have fallen in line with the leadership’s wishes more resolutely. Exit polls show that she was tied with Obama among union members.

Obama struggled to grab union support in the early primary states, so the culinary union was thought to be a major breakthrough. Instead, it may have just allowed him to save face.

Photograph of Hillary Clinton on Slate ‘s home page by Elise Amendola/AP Photo.