The Dems toot their own horns at the MGM

The vuvuzelas blared and goals were scored, but this was no soccer game.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Democrats jammed into the MGM Grand's conference center Wednesday evening for a Battle Born/Battleground First in the West Caucus Dinner (Can't you feel the hype?) to listen to the party's three presidential candidates make their pitches. Although many in the crowd may not have emerged with their eardrums fully intact, thanks to the inexplicable and obnoxious plastic stadium horns from the Bernie Sanders section (even their hero was continually frustrated during his remarks by the "beautiful music," as he sardonically called it), the event was a remarkable success for the party six weeks before the pivotal (they/we hope) caucus. And that was the....goal.

Some thoughts:

►The party claims 2,200 people were there. It's possible. (UPDATED: An MGM official confirms that 2,100 chairs were set up (most were filled) and that people milled in the foyer all night. So the party estimate appears to be correct.) But there were empty seats in the back, even though the dinner tables were packed and each side of the room teemed with Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters (shouldn't the Berners have been on the left and not the right side?). Considering the short time to get organized after the holidays, the real story may have been the Party of Reid making a statement: Prince Harry is ready to atone for 2014's disaster and leave a smashing 2016 slate of victories as his legacy.

Despite the cacophony (the Hillaryites had glow sticks and noisemakers and were much more organized with crowed conductors), the real energy was on the sides of the room, with most dinner attendees in the center less enthused and excited, it seemed. The rhythms of the three-hour (ugh) event were odd, too. The Congressional District Four quartet spoke first,  followed by Harry Reid, who then introduced Sanders, Clinton and Martin O'Malley, who then strangely sat down and a Caucus 101 seminar began. You could feel the collective sigh. Then Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto spoke, but she is an A-list candidate with D-List speaking abilities, which further sapped the energy from the room (but the vuvuzelas played on). Then came the presidential hopefuls, who did not finish until Sanders spoke to a much-depleted crowd after 9:30.

The event was really about showing Nevada's importance and energizing the faithful for the caucus, and it surely did that. Clinton 's troops, if not loudest, were more like loyal soldiers, wearing their T-shirts and taking orders. Her speech was one of the best I have seen her give, full of passion, Nevada knowledge (she even attacked Attorney General Adam Laxalt on immigration!) and a laundry list of hot buttons. Sanders gave his usual stump speech, but his vuvuzela-brandishing acolytes stuck around and cheered and blew their horns even as his raspy voice faded.

Clinton should win Nevada no matter what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire -- "She has a clear advantage" was how one well-placed Dmocrat put it -- but a thought occurred to me as I covered my ears and tried to think last night: The Democrats registered 30,000 new voters at the '08 caucus. Even if they only get half that number on Feb. 20, most or at least many of those will be new voters and most probably Sanders revolutionaries. If it's close here going into Caucus Day, where even 17-year-olds who can vote in November can participate (the millennials feel the Bern), he could be competitive in Nevada. I have always thought Clinton wanted a Nevada backstop should things go awry in Iowa and New Hampshire, but if Sanders wins those states and can get enough new Nevada voters to register on Caucus Day, Clinton's Nevada firewall might be breached. Politico's Annie Karni pointed out some Sanders momentum, but for those not from Nevada, it is impossible to underestimate the impact of the Erin Bilbray (worst CD3 candidate in history, and that is saying something) endorsement.

Martin O'Malley also spoke. (As Kasie Hunt put it Thursday morning on MSNBC, "Poor Martin O'Malley." That about sums it up. Just look at the picture I posted here. He had few backers in the crowd, but he actually gave a substantive, stirring speech, eviscerating Donald Trump in the process. But he's running for a Cabinet post, not president.)

Of the CD4 speeches, Ruben Kihuen's was the best (but he was yelling most of it), a nice mixture of background and rah-rah, followed by Lucy Flores, then John Oceguera and Susie Lee, who has a lot of money but still isn't quite in her milieu. Many observers think this is a two-person race (Reid and union aonintee Kihuen vs. the moneyed Lee), but I'm not there yet. Tuurnout will be so low in June that a few thosuand votes could win, and until the Culinary weighs in (likely for Kihuen), this is still foggy.

You can check my Twitter feed for more (@ralstonreports), but I have to go lie down now because my ears are still ringing (as I said, last time was Aerosmith, '76). It is the vuvuzelas I will remember ....