[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/03/06/art.clintonbill.ap.jpg caption="Bill Clinton is heading to Wyoming."] (CNN) - Wyoming – the home state of Vice President Dick Cheney – is not usually a pit stop on the Democratic presidential campaign trail. But late this week, the state finds itself the Democratic destination of choice, with visits from former President Bill Clinton and the two remaining White House hopefuls, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
The former president, campaigning for his wife, is making several stops in the state Thursday. And Hillary Clinton and Obama head to the state Friday – with both planning a stop in Casper (population: roughly 50,000).
“Seriously, I never imagined when I took this job that we would see the day when the two front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination would hold events in Wyoming on the eve of our county caucuses,” Wyoming Democratic Party spokesman Bill Luckett wrote on the state party’s Web site Thursday. “I think there’s a reasonable chance we’ll get our 15 minutes in the national spotlight when the deal goes down on Saturday.”
With just over 600 delegates left at stake in the Democratic presidential race, every remaining contest is seen as crucial to both Clinton and Obama. No polling has been conducted in the state, though the Illinois senator has held the advantage in most caucus contests to date.
(Post updated 1 p.m. ET to add travel details for both candidates)
RNC Chairman Mike Duncan
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Republican Party will penalize five states for holding presidential primary elections before February 5, 2008, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan announced Thursday.
New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Michigan and Wyoming will be stripped of half their delegates to the party's convention in September, Duncan said in a conference call with reporters.
"The rules lay out a well defined process for selecting delegates, including a window from February 5 to July 28 in which state parties are permitted to hold their delegate selection process," Duncan said. "Five states have gone outside the rules with their delegate selection process, and they have been made fully aware of what the consequences will be."
The Iowa and Nevada caucuses are also scheduled to be held before February 5, but these two states will avoid being penalized because caucuses do not assign binding delegates to the convention.
Reacting to the news, several state party leaders said they still expect their full delegation will be allowed to participate in the convention.
A banner on the Wyoming GOP's Web site encourages applicants for the state's vacant Senate seat.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - After U.S. Senator Craig Thomas died of leukemia earlier this month, Republican leaders in his home state of Wyoming decided to employ a wide-open application process to find potential candidates for his vacant seat.
Any registered Republican who was a resident of Wyoming and met the age limit for a senator (at least 30) could throw his or her cowboy hat into the ring by filling out a two-page job application and submitting it to state party headquarters.
By Thursday's deadline, 31 people applied, including a host of current and former state legislators, two doctors, seven ranchers, a minister, a radio announcer and the manager of a truck stop company.
"Grassroots democracy is alive and well in Wyoming," said Fred Parady, the chairman of the state GOP, in a statement. "We have an energized citizenry and an eager group of applicants."
Sunday, the entire herd of candidates will be invited to take the stage at Casper College for a candidates' forum, which will be broadcast statewide. Parady said party leaders were still "finalizing procedures" for handling the large field of Senate hopefuls. After Sunday's forum, the GOP central committee will meet Tuesday to pick the three finalists to send to Gov. David Freudenthal, who will pick a new senator from the list.
Two of the candidates hail from families that are no stranger to the U.S. Senate State Rep. Colin Simpson of Cody is the son of former Sen. Alan Simpson and grandson of former Sen. Milward Simpson. Matt Mead of Jackson, who resigned last week from his post as U.S. attorney to seek Thomas' seat, is the grandson of former Sen. Cliff Hansen.
Some of the other higher-profile figures in the field of 27 men and four women are Tom Sansonetti, a Cheyenne lawyer who was once Thomas' chief-of-staff; former State Treasurer Cynthia Lummis; and Randall Luthi, a former state House speaker who is now deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington.
However, one name not on the list is Wyoming's lone U.S. House member, seven-term Rep. Barbara Cubin, who announced shortly after Thomas' death she would not try to move over to the Senate. And although there was speculation about the possibility in local media, Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, also did not apply.
- CNN's Richard Shumate