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September 1, 2014

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Reid caucuses, but keeps his choice a mystery

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Tiffany Brown

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his wife, Landra, raise their presidential preference cards to be counted in their home precinct in Searchlight. They did not commit to any of the candidates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wakes up at 5:30 a.m. on the day he created.

It is caucus day in this old mining town, as peaceful as any place around, 780 people and no stoplights.

Yet Reid worries. Using his sway as the third-most-powerful politician in the country, he has muscled an early caucus for Nevada.

And now he thinks: What if nobody shows up?

He won’t have to go far to find out.

He travels less than a mile down Route 164 from his home and turns left at Michael Wendell Way to get to the Searchlight Community Center. It’s next to Harry Reid Elementary School.

He strolls past a fellow handing out Barack Obama stickers and declines, saying, “I’m not a sticker kind of guy.”

Inside, Reid is greeted by his own portrait. He also is featured in the one-room museum dedicated to this town founded in 1898.

He knows just about everybody in the room. He sees Noreen Thanuum, who used to sell merchandise to the senator at the general store until her knee went out a few months ago. Today she’s campaigning for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Reid takes a deep breath, seeing all the people who have showed up for the caucus — 69 people. In Searchlight, that’s massive.

He passes on the snacks laid out — a spread of crackers, sliced hot dogs, sliced meat, and cheese spread in an aerosol can.

At 11:30 a.m. sharp, the leader of the majority party in the U.S. Senate addresses his neighbors. This is a historic day, he says, and their votes count. He knows that because, he reminds them, he won a 1998 Senate bid by only 401 votes.

Caucusgoers choose to join groups for Clinton or Obama. Reid and his wife, Landra, make their own huddle, for “uncommitted.”

Standing alone, they admire a painting of a tepee called “Peaceful Morning.” The painter is Jane Bunker Overy, who today serves as precinct secretary. Yes, the town is very small.

At 12:15 p.m. the caucus is over. Clinton wins three delegates; John Edwards and Obama win one each.

And one couple is neutral.

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