It's easy to lose sight of the national presidential election when you're here in Nevada.
Living in a true swing state, you're more likely to bump into rabid supporters of both John McCain and Barack Obama. But traveling to the true blue East Coast can add to your perspective.
The East's most notable battleground is typically Pennsylvania -- seen as a keystone in the Electoral College bridge on Election Night.
This year, on the Democratic side, Pennsylvania chose Hillary Clinton in record turnout. Obama scooped up the big cities while Clinton largely won the burbs, the boroughs and the barn country.
So, in my recent travels through my home state, I expected to see a lot more evidence of soft support for Obama and emerging excitement for McCain. But where I traveled, the commonwealth looked pretty solid right now for Obama.
McCain stopped in Bethlehem while I was there, with a ridiculous surprise visit to a grocery market in an old strip mall, placing organic produce into a cart pushed by a loyal Republican activist. The visit was as canned as the veggies McCain avoided.
The smaller cities I visited in eastern Pennsylvania featured their typical flag-flying, patriotic, tree-lined streets. But just about every three houses, there were Obama lawn signs.
And while Philadelphia will certainly vote Obama this fall, yard signs, stickers and window posters were as evident in blue-collar Manayunk as they were in the more upscale Chestnut Hill.
Rural parts of Berks County were even on display for Obama, with the Democrat's name as common as the hex signs in some areas.
Even here in Democratic Clark County, you don't see that level of outward support for Obama.
It's little wonder Nevada, even with its solid Democratic registrations, is still viewed more through a red lens. But even that view is changing nationally.
Last Friday, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza bumped Nevada up to No. 2 on his blog's list of states likely to swing this presidential year. The only state more likely to turn from red to blue is Iowa, a state that went for Bush by less than half of 1 percentage point in 2004.
I was off for the past few weeks, by Nevada Democrats obviously were not on vacation.
The state party launched a Web site criticizing Jim Gibbons as America's Worst Governor.
And there was plenty of noise round about the 3rd Congressional District as Democrat Dina Titus raised more money than incumbent Republican Jon Porter.
The excitement even bubbled over to District 2, where positive registration numbers in Washoe County have led to speculation that the second time may be the charm for Jill Derby against incumbent Republican Rep. Dean Heller.
On the Republican side of the aisle, the past few weeks have been a kind of status quo you don't necessarily want when you're not in good status.
Even Harry Reid's out of the country now.
At least the local GOP will get to make some noise Friday when hated Hillary Rodham Clinton comes to Henderson to stump for Obama.
Coming back to Nevada feels a lot like returning to the same old story.
Judge Kathy Hardcastle is still jawing at "shouldn't be a judge" Elizabeth Halverson.
Halverson is still erupting in less-than-judicial behavior.
Since the story is already playing out like the sickest reality television before the Judicial Discipline Commission, I think the two ladies could settle it on ABC's summer interlude "Wipeout."
Halverson has the physique, judging from some of the contestants I've seen. The winner might get to host her own small-claims reality show -- heaven knows neither is acting like she belongs in a real court.
Sharron Angle is still submitting signatures for a ballot initiative to reduce property taxes -- and school and government officials are still working to knock it off the ballot.
Sundry law enforcement, community and business groups are announcing expected endorsements. Joe Heck and Bob Beers both get the Henderson Chamber's support while the Assembly speaker is somehow overlooked.
And here's a shocker: The Sierra Club likes Titus.
The state's still broke, and most of its residents aren't doing much better.
Somehow, the news that foreclosures have doubled doesn't seem like news. We've all known that just driving through the neighborhood.
And what about early voting? No news there. There's still nobody taking part in the ridiculous August primary. And I really doubt they're waiting for the actual election next Tuesday.
Seems I picked a good enough time to take off. By this time next week, the general election could be in full swing -- and the state could be well on its way to swinging.
Contact Erin Neff at (702) 387-2906, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org