Forget the final tally and the delicate balance of convention delegates. Here are the real winners and losers of Saturday's Nevada presidential caucuses.
WINNER: Harry Reid. What's that glow rising from Searchlight? It's the Senate majority leader beaming over the phenomenal caucus turnout.
Saturday's 116,000 mark for Democrats (and 44,000 for Republicans) will be hard to top, and some citizens are complaining about the confusing process, but Nevada never looked better.
LOSER: The Culinary union and its remarkably overrated political clout. The 60,000-member union played coy for weeks with its Jan. 9 endorsement, then backed Barack Obama - and failed to deliver.
Months ago, Obama's national field director said, "Whoever gets the endorsement of the Culinary Workers union, more than likely, is going to win Nevada."
Today, those words are causing more indigestion than a 99-cent buffet.
Rumor is Culinary Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor is changing his name to D-minus.
And if it turns out rank-and-file members were actually threatened when they dared to defy their leadership, then expect the Culinary to be haunted by the caucus for a long time to come.
WINNER: GOP constitutionalist underdog Ron Paul. Oh, if only 49 other states had Nevada's libertarian streak. Paul spent precious campaign dollars here, logged substantial face time, and placed second.
The political sun is setting for Paul, but at least he showed up in the Silver State - and that's more than can be said for most of the rest of the Republican field.
LOSER: John McCain. No face time equals no second-place cookie for the senator from right next door. Nevada Republicans might not like McCain's views on illegal immigration, but they would have had more respect for him had he bothered to include them on his list of campaign stops.
WINNER: Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. The Review-Journal's pollster shot down critics by compiling a credible survey as caucus day drew near. The pundits who claimed accurate polls couldn't be done after New Hampshire's survey debacle should look up Coker.
LOSER: Dennis Kucinich. Not at the caucus, in the voting booth of public opinion. Despite failing to draw a shadow of interest from voters, Kucinich sued unsuccessfully to be included in a recent debate. He can be an engaging speaker, but someone should tell him his 15 minutes are up.
WINNER: John Edwards. That's right. Despite watching his presidential dreams vanish in the Nevada desert, he turned out to be a winner - if only for what he admitted to CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Saturday night.
"I got my butt kicked," Edwards said.
Finally, a presidential candidate has learned how to admit defeat.
He won't do it, but now is the time for Edwards to bow out gracefully. That 15-minute timer is ticking.
LOSER: The Reno Gazette-Journal's poll that had Edwards breathing down the necks of the front-runners. Edwards finished with 4 percent of the vote. The poll also had Mitt Romney in fourth place and Ron Paul sixth.
WINNER: Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton gets the win, but her husband gets the save. Goose Gossage in his prime didn't shut out the opposition the way former President Clinton did this past week.
WINNER: Hillary's Machine. Talk about an organized presence. Both the Clinton and Obama camps used scads of out-of-town assistants to rally their troops, but Clinton took advantage of a superior in-state presence to overcome Obama's energy and the terrier bite of the Culinary.
WINNER: Team Romney. The assumption, simplistic in my opinion, is that Mitt Romney tapped his LDS connections in Nevada to cruise to victory. Obviously that helped him, but it sells short the time he spent campaigning across the state and showed Nevada Republicans he cared about their votes. His decision to fly to Nevada last week while he was faltering in South Carolina makes his Silver State victory even more important.
WINNER: Nevada. From Searchlight to Jackpot, the Silver State basked in a golden political glow in the run up to the caucus.
The caucus was at times chaotic and drew warranted criticism, but it also generated unprecedented enthusiasm and participation. That's a fair trade.
If too reliant on the usual clichés, the national press was mostly kind. By the time it was over, a majority of reporters pronounced our name right.
Who could ask for more?
• John L. Smith's column, reprinted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, appears on Thursdays on the Appeal's Opinion page. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (702) 383-0295.