Outside political volunteers flood Nevada

RENO – Hal and Marlane Huffaker drove 200 miles to Reno from their home in Concord, Calif., to join the growing brigades of weekend political warriors intent on ousting President Barack Obama from the White House and replacing him with Republican Mitt Romney.

The battleground is Nevada, a swing state that could decide the election, not California, where Obama is expected to win and where the candidates mainly visit to pick up campaign cash, if they drop in at all.

And it’s also not Utah or Idaho or even Arizona – all red states Romney is expected to win on Nov. 6.

No, Nevada is where the 2012 election will be decided, and it is where the action is.

So Republicans from surrounding states are streaming across the state line. As many as 500 gathered over the weekend to hit the phones and go door-to-door around Las Vegas. It’s an effort the GOP hopes will overcome a home-field advantage for Democrats, who can rely on paid union forces and an intimidating voter registration advantage.

Popular New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez was brought in Saturday to rally the Republicans, the latest out-of-state surrogate or high-profile Nevada politician sent to rally both local campaign workers and outsiders.

Two weeks ago, it was U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican in a tight race to return to the Senate, who gave a pep talk to 120 volunteers from the San Francisco Bay Area before they fanned out through Reno-area neighborhoods. The volunteers were fed bagels for breakfast and tacos for lunch, but otherwise paid their own hotel and transportation costs.

Meanwhile, Heller’s opponent, Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., is thanking Culinary Local 226 for its help.

"We figure this is a swing state and we’ve got a chance of winning here," said Marlane Huffaker, a conservative who joined her husband in September for her first weekend campaigning east of the Sierra Nevada in Reno. "I think Romney’s going to win. And I think he’s going to make a difference. I think he clearly has the better answers. This president has been a terrible failure."

The Romney campaign and "Team Nevada," which is coordinating the GOP ground game for Republican candidates on the ticket, is counting on outside help and greater GOP enthusiasm in the Silver State to upset Obama, who easily won here in 2008 but is now just edging out Romney.

Chris Carr, the Romney campaign’s state director, is a veteran of Nevada politics hired in the spring to lead the election effort here. In the 2010 campaign cycle, he worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee and focused on targeted races, including Republican Rep. Mark Amodei’s special election last year. Carr was executive director of the Nevada GOP in 2004, when President George W. Bush won the Battle Born state.

After 2004, however, the GOP’s state operation suffered. This past year the party has been torn by internal rivalries, prompting the Republican National Committee to essentially take over.

The big push by Carr and Team Nevada began on May 29, the day Romney clinched the GOP presidential nomination. Romney campaigned for the first time with Gov. Brian Sandoval at a furniture warehouse owned by a woman who backed Obama four years ago. And then Romney raised $2 million at a private fundraiser with Donald Trump, the hotel mogul, reality TV personality and in­famous Obama critic.

Sandoval in the coming days will become more openly involved in the Romney campaign, according to GOP insiders. Until now, he’s played a behind-the-scenes role. But his appeal as the state’s first elected Hispanic governor could win votes in the Latino community.

Under Carr’s leadership, Republicans have made 1.5 million voter contacts in the state, meaning that many attempts – successful or not – have been made to reach each potential voter. Carr said the big change this election is a move to knock on more doors – about 330,000 so far in Nevada – instead of relying mostly on phone banks and mail.

"As good as we were in ’04, we’re further along right now as far as the ground game than we were in ’04," Carr said in an interview. "How we counter what the Democrats are doing is with our local volunteers. And we have deployments coming in from four or five different states" along with the recent addition of paid walkers.


In the past, the national Republican Party thought it was good enough to drop into a state and make a big push in the 72 hours before Election Day. Now, there’s an election day every day for two weeks, thanks to early voting. And absentee ballots already being filled out will account for 7 percent to 8 percent of the final tally.

Because more than half of Nevadans vote early, the election can be all but won or lost well before Nov. 6 – the day union forces get out the buses and literally drive Democratic supporters to the polls.

"We, as a national party, everybody understands the importance of early voting," Carr said, adding that he’s seeing more enthusiasm on the ground in recent months. "I think a lot of this comes from the fact that the campaigns are unified. I think we’ve done a good job of working together. We’re definitely winning the enthusiasm gap."

Generally, turnout is higher in presidential election years, at about 80 percent. And Republicans tend to go to the polls at a higher rate than Democrats, accounting for a turnout edge of 4 percent to 6 percent.

Yet the Democratic Party machine built by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid is one of the nation’s strongest. The Democratic Senate majority leader won re-election in 2010 thanks to that organizational advantage, and by having a much weaker opponent in Republican Sharron Angle. Democrats also made historic gains in 2008, registering 100,000 new voters, to turn the state blue for Obama.

Democrats look skeptically at the GOP effort, believing it’s too little, too late for Romney.

The Democrats say they have the votes for Obama to win, and that Obama’s coattails will make the difference in close down-ballot races such as Berkley’s effort to unseat Heller.

The Obama campaign, too, has busloads of volunteers coming in from California and other states. And young campaign workers have been camped out in the homes of Nevada supporters for months. But the campaign also opened offices here in 2007, and never really turned out the lights. It is counting on years of community organizing as well as the big Democratic voter registration.

In Clark County alone, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than 125,000 as of Friday evening – just surpassing the 2008 advantage – and by more than 85,000 voters statewide out of nearly 1.2 million total.

Jeremy Bird, the national field director for the Obama campaign, expressed confidence the Democratic machine will prevail because the president’s longtime volunteers know their neighbors and will get them to the polls.

"When you’ve built an organization over these years, these people know their voters," Bird said. "We know who these folks are. When they register a voter, they go and turn them out. We’ve been talking to them. We’ve been persuading them. And that’s what we do best. It’s a big advantage over something built at the last minute."

Bird is at the center of a sophisticated war room that keeps detailed statistics on Nevada and a handful of other states in play through Election Day.

A campaign memo last week showed Nevada Democrats outpacing Republicans in every measure, from doubling voter registration over Republicans to beating the GOP in absentee ballot requests (nearly 21,700 and counting), although Republicans claimed an edge for mail-in ballots that bank early votes.

The Democrats are also far outpacing Republicans in registering Hispanics, a key voting bloc in Nevada. Nearly 214,000 Hispanics are registered to vote this year, a 15 percent increase over four years ago, the campaign said. Of the total, more than 123,350 are Democrats and more than 41,300 are Republicans, a 3-to-1 advantage.

The Obama campaign further breaks down the new Nevada registered voters: 40 percent are younger than 30 and 79 percent are black or Latino, and also younger than 30 – voters the president attracts most.

"We’ve invested for years and we’ve invested early in battleground states," Bird said. "You can’t fake a real ground game."

Carr, the Romney Nevada director, said the GOP ground game is real and it’s not ignoring any voter. Last month, the campaign opened an office in the heart of Latino East Las Vegas, sending Romney’s Spanish-speaking son Craig to meet supporters. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has made three visits to Southern Nevada, where he grew up and has a Latino following.

"I’m proud that we as a party are reaching out to the Latino community because it’s past due," Carr said, noting the campaign has four Hispanic outreach directors, including three in Las Vegas and one in Reno. "They obviously are very important in this region of the country."

Carr was involved in Bush’s campaign when the Republican won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote.

The Republican enthusiasm seems to be matching the Democratic push to re-elect Obama.

In Reno a couple of weeks ago dozens of the Bay Area volunteers wore T-shirts saying, "Nobama Nevada" in an outline of the Silver State. Leonard Stone of El Granada was among them.

"If we bring 100 people here and they walk precincts, we might change the outcome," said Stone, an organizer who said the Bay Area troops would return the last weekend of October, just before the election. "We can make a difference."

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.

Vegas Homeless Remembered
Las Vegas vigil remembers 179 homeless people who died over the past year in Clark County. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A look inside Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory
Tesla's Gigafactory east of Reno produces the batteries that fuel the company's electric cars. Production has created more than 7,000 jobs, and the campus that includes one of the largest buildings in the world is expected to triple in size by the time it is completed. Tesla Vice President Chris Lister leads a tour of the facility. (Bill Dentzer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garnet Interchange Ribbon Cutting
The Nevada Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of the $63 million I-15-US 93 Garnet Interchange project. The project includes a modified diverging diamond interchange and a 5-mile widening of US 93.
State Foresters Hunt for Record Trees
Urban foresters from the Nevada Division of Forestry hunt for record setting trees.
Rick Davidson directs NFR satellite feed
Rick Davidson directs the Wrangler NFR's live satellite feed from a production trailer outside the Thomas & Mack Center. (Patrick Everson)
Scott Boras, Bryce Harper's agent, speaks to media at baseball's winter meetings
Baseball agent Scott Boras updates media on the contract negotiations of his client Bryce Harper during baseball's winter meetings at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State QB on record-breaking receiver
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion talks record-setting receiver KeeSean Johnson. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like