At age 91, Delores Hill has just about seen it all, and on Wednesday her latest wish came true.
Hill got to hear President Barack Obama speak in person at Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas.
"I believe in everything President Obama is trying to do," said Hill, an African-American who lived through the civil rights era and was born the year after women won the right to vote in the United States. "If I could vote 20 times for him, I would do it. We need him. We need him."
Hill was among more than 2,700 supporters who turned out for an Obama campaign rally, a raucous event that attracted mostly die-hard Democrats working to ensure the president wins Nevada and a second term.
"We need you!" Obama told the crowd. "If you're willing to stand with me and knock on some doors with me, and make some phone calls with me, this November we will win Nevada. We will win this election."
On his 13th trip to Nevada as president, Obama's campaign topic was education, but his message was election-year pleas to get out the vote as he faces a tight contest with GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney.
A new poll of likely Nevada voters published Wednesday showed the two men in a virtual dead heat in the Silver State with Obama edging out Romney 47 percent to 45 percent. The SurveyUSA poll was commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and KLAS-TV 8NewsNow. Nationally, the race is nearly tied, too, in most polls.
In his speech, Obama said that if Romney had his way, education budgets would be cut by 20 percent, thousands of laid-off teachers wouldn't be rehired, and student class sizes would grow, handicapping America's future leaders.
"I'm standing here as president because I had a bunch of great teachers," Obama said, speaking to a gymnasium crowd that roared its approval. "Teachers matter. They're on the front lines of our future."
Obama's 26-minute speech was punctuated by cheering fans, screams of support and chants of "four more years!"
Two protesters who briefly interrupted the rally were dragged out of the gym by security. The president all but ignored the disruption, joking that one of the protesters could have used a good teacher.
Wednesday's visit was Obama's sixth trip to Nevada this year, the first in full campaign mode with the Nov. 6 election a little more than two months away. The president campaigned in Reno on Tuesday.
Romney also has frequently visited the battleground state, which could determine who wins the White House in November.
At the start of his speech, Obama joked about the weather Wednesday amid flash-flood warnings.
"I didn't know it rained in Las Vegas," he said.
Obama also gave a shout-out to U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is running for the Senate against U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. It was Berkley's first campaign appearance with Obama this year, but she stayed in the audience instead of taking the stage on a raised platform at one end of the gym.
Nevada Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, helped introduce Obama as co-chairman of the president's campaign and a longtime supporter who backed Obama in 2008. Horsford is running for Nevada's new 4th Congressional District seat against Republican Danny Tarkanian.
Obama warned that student achievement would drop if he did not win re-election and continue to pour resources into schools, colleges and universities.
Already, he said, 300,000 teachers had been laid off because of budget cuts. According to the Obama campaign, his stimulus helped save more than 4,000 teacher jobs in Nevada alone.
The president said he also doubled Pell Grants for college students, pushed to keep student loan interest rates from rising and maintained funding for preschool programs such as Head Start.
Obama said Romney would "gut education" by slashing overall spending by 20 percent, and cutting grant programs and Head Start, as well as allowing teacher layoffs to continue and class sizes to grow.
"Cutting back on teachers is the last thing we should be doing as a country," Obama said. "Governor Romney says we have enough teachers, we don't need any more."
The president shook his head, criticizing Romney for talking about teachers as if they were "a bunch of nameless government bureaucrats that we need to cut back on."
Obama accused Romney of offering the rich $5 trillion in tax cuts instead of funding education.
"He doesn't think our children's education is worth investing in," Obama said. "I do."
Obama barely acknowledged the dismal Nevada economy during his speech, although he said the Battle Born State "has been through tougher times than other states."
The president said the airwaves will be glutted with Republican ads blaming him for problems with the economy, ads that make it appear "you can't compete with some rich guy writing a $10 million check," a reference to Republican donor and Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
In response to Obama's speech, the Romney campaign said the president's economic policies have hit students in their pocketbooks.
"President Obama's policies have only made the problems of college affordability and student debt worse," said Mason Harrison, spokesman for Romney's campaign in Nevada. "Under President Obama, the costs of college have skyrocketed - making it more difficult for students to attend college - and his economic policies have made it harder for graduates to get jobs. Mitt Romney will encourage innovation and competition to make college more affordable, and his economic policies will give recent graduates the job opportunities they deserve."
In early August, Romney visited the hard-hit city of North Las Vegas. He slammed Obama for stifling small business and job growth as the unemployment rate continued to rise. It is now 12 percent in Nevada.
Romney noted that North Las Vegas has been in such dire economic straits that city officials recently declared a fiscal disaster in a state with the nation's highest joblessness.
"We thought things would be better, but they're not," Romney said, speaking to several hundred supporters packed inside a trucking warehouse. "This is a place that's really struggling."
Obama made the case Wednesday for giving him four more years to revive the economy.
"We've come too far to turn back now," he said, urging his supporters to help him win on Nov. 6 by volunteering and registering new voters. "We've got more work to do."
In Clark County, the average class size stood at 32 students in public schools last year, higher than any of the other 20 largest school districts in the nation. The Clark County School District has 308,000 students.
While student enrollment has flat-lined after more than a decade of rapid growth, classes will be more crammed when school starts Monday, increasing by three students on average in high schools, middle schools and grades four and five. The rise is a result of 1,000 fewer teachers.
The district cut these positions over the summer - decreasing the total number of teachers to about 17,000 - to cover the cost of mandatory teacher pay raises won by their union in arbitration.
Canyon Springs High School is an example of a school that needs extra attention. It is one of four local schools selected for "turnaround" this school year. The turnaround schools are the lowest performers in the Clark County School District, one of the lowest-performing districts in the country.
To turn around, Canyon Springs is undergoing a transformation that will include a new principal, Ron Guerzon, some new staff and $4.1 million in extra funding divided over three years.
The Obama administration has supported funding these turnarounds across the country.
Coming into this school year, Canyon Springs was known as the most violent school in the district, according to its Report Card published by the Nevada Department of Education.
The school has 2,500 students; 54 percent are Hispanic, 34 percent are black and 7 percent are white. More than two-thirds of the students living in poverty qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch.
For the High School Proficiency Exam required to graduate, only 46 percent of juniors passed the reading exam, 49 percent passed the science exam and 70 percent passed the writing exam.
Reporter Trevon Milliard contributed to this report. Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal .com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.