Obama to reprise Reid rally

President Barack Obama's visit to Las Vegas next week for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid will be a mix of official and political events, including a fundraiser at Aria, the casino at the heart of both CityCenter and Southern Nevada's hopes of economic recovery.

Details were still being worked out Wednesday, but Obama is scheduled to arrive on July 8 and may stay a second day, said one official familiar with the planning. That would leave lots of time to promote Reid's re-election as well as White House plans to prevent the nation from experiencing a double-dip recession.

Sensitive to election-year resentment over big government, Obama declared Wednesday in Racine, Wis., that he intends to get "our debt and our deficits under control."

"We got it moving again," Obama said of the economy, speaking at a town hall. "We now have to, in a gradual way, reduce spending ... but do so in a way that doesn't hurt people. And that is a challenge."

Democrats Reid and Obama argue the $862 billion stimulus created jobs and kept the country from falling into a deeper recession. But Republicans, including Reid's GOP opponent Sharron Angle, criticize the stimulus and industry bailouts as government handouts that increased the nation's debt and the deficit.

The last time Obama visited Las Vegas in February to stand beside Reid, the president held a town hall at a Henderson school where the public was invited. And he spoke to business leaders at the Aria, the centerpiece of the $8.5 billion CityCenter development that opened last year on the Strip.

No specifics were released about the planned July 8-9 Obama visit, although it was expected to include both public and private events, including the fundraiser. One person outside the White House and the Reid campaign said Aria would be the site, and several other people confirmed it.

The sources spoke to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on condition of anonymity because the planning was still under way and Obama's schedule had not been officially announced.

During Obama's last stop in Las Vegas, he attended a private $1 million fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee hosted at the home of Palms hotel-casino owner George Maloof.

Since then, first lady Michele Obama and former President Bill Clinton have made stops in voter-rich Las Vegas to help shore up support for Reid, whose popularity ratings are low these days.

Obama's post July 4th holiday visit should generate more buzz -- for Reid and for Las Vegas -- which could raise the gaming city's profile during the busy summer tourist season.

"Sure it'll help," said Vince Alberta, spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, who added that it's too soon to say whether the city is making an economic comeback.

Most observers also say it's too soon to tell whether CityCenter will be a success as the state continues to suffer economically. Nevada now has a record high unemployment rate of 14 percent.

Reid, by his account and that of CityCenter owners, saved the project last year.

Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International, has praised Reid for calling bankers to ensure the money was there to complete CityCenter, which gave 10,000 construction workers jobs. It also created 12,000 permanent jobs, according to a campaign commercial for Reid that featured Murren.

Obama and other top members of his administration as well as Democratic Party icons such as Clinton are expected to keep up the visits to help talk up Reid as vital to the White House agenda.

Still, it's unclear whether the big name, high-profile promotion has helped.

Reid got no bounce from Obama's last visit on Feb. 19, according to a Mason-Dixon survey taken for the Review-Journal after the event.

Seventeen percent of voters surveyed said they would be less likely to vote for Reid following the president's visit compared to the 7 percent who said they would be more likely to vote for him, according to the poll. Another 75 percent said Obama's visit would have no effect on how they vote.

At this point, the Reid versus Angle race is close with the former Reno Assemblywoman leading the five-term incumbent by several points following her June 8 GOP primary victory.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.