01/21/2008 06:57 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

We Need Grown-Ups

Sunday morning, the crack of dawn.

Waiting in the airport in Las Vegas for a flight back to Los Angeles after a Saturday morning spent observing the caucuses for the Obama campaign. The radio on the way to McCarran said that while Clinton won the vote count, Obama grabbed one more delegate, but the optimism among the folks I traveled with was muted.

We were told in preparation for the caucus to watch for efforts by the Clinton team to discourage participation among folks who came to the at-large caucuses at some nine Strip hotels.

I had friends at three hotels and heard from two locations that there were efforts to suppress turnout by caucus goers, particularly unionized hotel employees whose union, the Culinary Workers, had endorsed Obama, but nothing like that happened at the Bellagio, where I was stationed.

In fact, there was a reasonable amount of comity, or at least no outright hostility, among the Clinton, Obama and Edwards volunteers. (There were nearly 500 people participating in the Bellagio caucus, and Obama and Clinton volunteers were outnumbered by voters by 10-1. Poor John, his ratio were inverted, and he really does deserve better.)

But what became abundantly clear was that Hillary's team, eager, young, white -- in all resembling nothing more than the next generation of George Stephanopouloses -- was simply better prepared.

Not that they were more committed. I was backing up Brian, a Latino kid from Chicago who'd been in Vegas since September helping lay the groundwork for the caucus. He was composed, competent, not long out of school. But the Clinton folks had the air of a team that had been doing this forever -- or at least since 1992. (I doubt they would have allowed some senior political officials from Los Angeles, with whom I spent the morning, to be driven to and fro across Las Vegas looking for an assignment.)

I'm still hopeful about the Obama campaign, but it feels like those Internet startups of a decade ago whose genesis was in the creativity of young visionaries. Once those ideas got legs and the stakes got higher it came time to bring in the "grown ups," the seasoned pros to make sure they would remain viable.

The race has narrowed, the stakes are clear. If the Obama campaign is to succeed it's time for the "grown ups" to step in and step up.