State Sen. Dina Titus on Tuesday endorsed Hillary Clinton's Democratic presidential bid and became the founding co-chair of a campaign group called "Women of the West," which the campaign said will have Titus stumping for women's votes for Clinton across the region.
"I'm excited about taking this message beyond our state's borders," Titus, the minority leader of the Senate and a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said during a conference call announcing the move. She said she could tap faculty connections and fellow female politicos. "The West is new ground for the Democratic party, and we're going after it full bore."
Titus, last year's unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said she signed on with Clinton because of the New York senator's leadership and experience.
"She's got a plan, and it's a plan that's not just platitudes, but real policy directives," Titus said, adding, "She's committed to Nevada, and that means a lot to us here."
In Nevada, Titus said she would work to elevate turnout of women voters, which she said tends to be below the national average. She said she would "go right into the beauty parlors and the grocery stores and get those single moms that don't turn out as much."
In addition, she said her mobilization of rural Democrats during the gubernatorial campaign would help Clinton in the presidential nominating caucuses scheduled for Jan. 19, whose structure tests campaigns' ability to organize voters around the state.
Clinton senior adviser Ann Lewis said the new group was proof of the importance of the West and of women to Clinton's campaign. She said Titus would bring her own grass-roots following to the Clinton camp, the "Team Titus" she mobilized for the gubernatorial election and has kept active since.
"She's going to be taking the lead for the campaign in designing and implementing outreach programs in the Western states," Lewis said, as well as "representing us on the trail."
Clinton's Nevada campaign chairman, County Commissioner Rory Reid, added, "We will be aided tremendously when Team Titus becomes Team Hillary. Her followers are as devoted as any I've ever seen in politics."
As a primary candidate last year, Titus was seen as more in touch with the Democratic party's liberal base than her opponent, while Clinton is seen as relatively centrist compared to her competitors for the presidential nomination. The party's left wing has especially taken Clinton to task for her refusal to apologize for having voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2002.
Titus was asked why, given that dynamic, her supporters would follow her onto the Clinton bandwagon. "I won't speak for all my supporters, but I can tell you this," she said. "They're activists. They want to be involved. They're looking for someone with a message that's clear and uplifting and optimistic."
Titus said she had been courted by other presidential candidates and was a fan of all of them, but "I just believe Senator Clinton is the right choice for this time. She's ready to lead."
Reid said the Titus announcement was the latest sign that the Clinton campaign in Nevada, which has led early polling and racked up endorsements, has "significant momentum."
Titus' endorsement came on the eve of a scheduled visit by Clinton rival Barack Obama's wife, Michelle Obama, who is slated to host a rally today at the Cambridge Community Center.
Previously, the Clinton campaign announced a slate of endorsements by black leaders in Nevada days before Obama made a visit to Las Vegas. The campaign said the timing of both announcements was coincidental and not an effort to step on Obama's toes.
Titus has also put out feelers about running for the 3rd Congressional District seat currently held by Republican Jon Porter. Asked about that potential race Tuesday, she said, "I haven't made that final decision," adding that the Legislature had been keeping her occupied.
"I'm also looking at the real possibility of becoming majority leader (in the Senate), so there are a lot of options still open," she said.