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Nevada voters can bet that’s true love from presidential candidates

If ever a state had reason to blush like a schoolgirl, it’s Nevada.

Beyoncé and Paris combined don’t have this many players hitting on them. Our suitors seem so sincere.

I speak, of course, of the unprecedented attention being paid Nevada voters by presidential rivals Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama as Election Day approaches. The endless cooing and billing and speechmaking are enough to give a state the vapors. Their focus makes me think we’re the swingingest swing state in the union.

The Review-Journal’s latest statewide survey, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., shows the race is within the 4-point margin of error: 47 percent for Obama, 43 percent for McCain. It’s clear from all the attention we’re receiving that neither candidate sees the Silver State as locked up.

Including Saturday morning’s appearance at Coronado High in Henderson — Campaign ’08’s Ground Zero because of the tight race for the 3rd Congressional District seat between Republican incumbent Jon Porter and Democrat challenger Dina Titus — Obama has made 20 appearances in Nevada in recent months. That’s more than most degenerate gamblers. Any more visits and he’ll have to enter a 12-step program.

But he’s not just racking up frequent flyer miles. He’s trying to close the deal in a state that only seven months ago was thought to belong to Hillary Clinton and was won in the Republican caucus by Mitt Romney.

Perhaps believing last impressions are lasting ones, and that despite coming after an enormous early voting turnout, McCain and his vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, are double-teaming Nevadans as the days turn to hours. McCain, seldom seen in the Silver State, is set to appear Monday. Palin, who drew a lively crowd of genuine fans in a recent Henderson visit, will make an appearance in Reno.

And let’s not forget the other family members, loyal seconds, and high-profile political supporters. Mitt “Wouldn’t I Look Good On The Ticket Now” Romney and Bill “The Same Goes For Me” Richardson made recent appearances.

On Monday, following a McCain and Palin family reunion here, Michele Obama is scheduled to make her second Las Vegas appearance in a week. That’s almost as often as Cher appears here, and she has her own theater.

Sources say Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden also made a recent appearance, but it’s hard to tell. Biden drew a whopping 1 percent here during his abbreviated presidential bid. Phil the Groundhog casts a bigger shadow in Punxsutawney than Joe the Candidate does in Nevada.

But the point is, they came. And they’re still coming right up to the eve of the most important election in a generation.

When I was a kid, politically Nevada was essentially a black-bag flyover state. Candidates slipped into town to lock up contributions from casino bosses and scrammed before someone snapped a picture. Our status as the gambling capital made us a pariah in respectable American society. (Respectable is defined as a Las Vegas visitor who registers under an assumed name with his “niece.”)

A lot has changed since then. Nevada’s casino barons welcome presidents these days. The state’s biggest unions wield big clout from here to Washington. Everyone sticks around for the photo op. Respectable members of society even register under their own names.

What makes it so great is, our votes count more than ever. And we have the suitors to prove it.

Despite the Democrats’ undeniably successful registration drive, the race is not in the bag for Barack. Despite the best efforts of Republicans to rally around the McCain-Palin ticket, the traditionally conservative Silver State isn’t a sure bet.

After spending hundreds of millions of dollars and speaking millions of words, Obama and McCain believe they still have to spend a little more cash and whisper just the right sweet nothings into the ears of some genuinely undecided and undeniably independent Nevada voters in order to win the White House.

We may be cheap, but we’re not easy. That’s why they’re still dropping by to make with the presidential moon eyes and romantic political ballads. Given this much attention, even Eleanor Rigby would have felt loved.

So look around, Las Vegas. Bask in the affection. Feel the love. It’s true and sincere. It’s always and forever.

At least until Tuesday night.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 383-0295.

 

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