CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Vietnam veteran Bob Cavazos on Monday joined Nevada delegates to the Democratic National Convention to work on a prefabricated home that will be donated to a former member of the military after it's completed.
Cavazos, an alternate delegate from Las Vegas, worked on the bathroom, removing covers from electrical outlets and laying down painter's tape before the walls were covered in white. His wife, Linda, a state delegate, drove in a few nails in another room.
"They let me do something," joked Linda Cavazos, who said she isn't very handy.
The Labor Day public service outing by Nevada Democrats came the day before the national convention opens today, a three-day celebration that culminates Thursday with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden accepting the party nominations for re-election.
The Cavazoses, like all of Nevada's 44 delegates, plan to spend each convention day meeting in caucuses focused on key interest groups, from veterans and women to Hispanics, that will help the party organize to promote issues and get out the vote at home for the Nov. 6 election.
Bob Cavazos said he's a member of the caucuses for veterans and Hispanics, both key voting blocs in Nevada, where 26 percent of the population is Latino and about one-tenth are veterans.
The house-building project was a good chance to demonstrate support for America's fighting men and women, said Cavazos, who worked on the home for about an hour. Organized by a nonpartisan group, the "House United" project began in Tampa, Fla., last week, where Republicans nominated Mitt Romney for president and his running mate, Paul Ryan, a conservative congressman from Wisconsin.
Nevada's Republican delegation to the national GOP convention didn't volunteer on the home-building project, although veterans in the group did meet to discuss issues important to voters.
Republicans normally have an advantage on military issues, but Obama has been able to point to successes, making it tougher for Romney to argue for change. The U.S. military killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on Obama's watch, and he's ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as promised.
"I think President Obama has done some really good things for veterans," said Cavazos, who agreed with the president ending the war in Iraq and moving to pull out of Afghanistan by 2014.
As for Hispanics, the president enjoys support by as much as three-quarters of Latinos in Nevada, according to recent opinion polls. But Romney is making the argument that Hispanics have suffered higher unemployment under Obama, much more than the average 12 percent in Nevada.
"I think Mitt Romney might have a chance to get some Hispanics, sure," said Cavazos whose grandparents were from Spain and Mexico. "But his talking points, I think, are pushing Hispanics away."
Romney has said he's for immigration reform, but focused on granting more work visas and reducing red tape to become a U.S. citizen, not on expanding ways for illegal immigrants to stay in the country.
He also opposes the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for some adult children of undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country illegally when young. These young adults would have to attend college or join the U.S. military to qualify.
Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, another Nevada delegate, is a member of the Hispanic and women's caucuses. Democrats are making a push against Romney for opposing federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Obama, meanwhile, has expanded birth control insurance coverage .
"They are absolutely organizing tools," Flores said of the caucus meetings, which are scheduled mornings and afternoons before the convention gavels open each evening for prime-time TV speeches. "That's how you win elections, by better understanding peoples' needs and concerns."
The caucuses and councils meeting in Charlotte around the convention include the black, Hispanic and Asian-American and Pacific Islanders caucuses along with ethnic and Native American councils. There are councils on faith, youth, seniors, veterans and military families and rural issues.
There's a women's caucus, one focused on disabilities and another on LGBT issues, or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. Another group focuses on voting rights .
Nevada's Democratic delegation appears as diverse as the issues voters care about.
At least half of Nevada's delegation of 44 members and three alternates are minorities, including 11 African-Americans, nine Hispanics and two Asians. Two are disabled as well.
Dorie Guy, the Washoe County Democratic Party chairwoman, is a member of three caucuses, for the disabled, seniors and women. She said she'll report on the caucus meetings when she returns home, encouraging volunteers to push harder to re-elect Obama to continue his policies.
Guy said she's convinced Obama will win Washoe County, the politically divided battleground county in the state. Romney must defeat Obama in Northern Nevada and handily win rural Nevada's 15 counties to overcome the president's Democratic minority voter advantage in Clark County.
"I have no doubt he'll win Washoe County again," said Guy, who rode a wheelchair to the house project. "Republicans are so disorganized this year. We are the ones that have the grass-roots organization. We have the people who can really go out there and tell the story of what Obama is doing."
Elizabeth Foyt, another delegate who handled a paintbrush Monday, quipped that the housing project was an example of how politics works these days since Republicans built only half the house.
"But the Democrats are finishing the job," Foyt said to cheers from fellow Democrats.
The Democrats and Obama, a former community organizer in Chicago, have made organizing coalitions into a winning election formula in Nevada.
The Romney campaign and Republicans, too, have been targeting voter groups and working at the grass-roots level in Nevada to reach out to Hispanics, veterans, seniors and women, for example.
Andres Ramirez, a Nevada delegate and vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee's Hispanic caucus, said Republicans can't match the Democrats in building broadly based coalitions because the GOP hasn't done enough for minorities and other disenfranchised groups.
"We're the big tent party," Ramirez said. "Our party is made up of a bunch of constituencies."
The question for Democrats is whether all those constituencies will turn out for Obama on Nov. 6 with the economy still lagging and the Silver State hit hardest in the nation.
Contact reporter Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.