Pop star energizes 13,000 at Obama’s whirlwind Las Vegas stop

In a late Wednesday rally in Las Vegas, President Barack Obama urged about 13,000 supporters to vote early as he and his GOP challenger Mitt Romney competed for votes at dueling campaign stops in Nevada, crisscrossing the nation in a sprint toward Election Day.

"I believe in you. I need you to keep believing in me," Obama said, speaking for 20 minutes until 10:15 p.m.

He said if his backers helped get out the vote for him, "We’ll win Clark County again. We’ll win Nevada again. We’ll win this election. We’ll finish what we started."

Obama slammed Romney, saying his Republican opponent seems to be suffering from "Romnesia," or forgetting policies he once backed and now has abandoned. The president didn’t give any examples but urged those in the crowd who booed to vote instead.

"There’s a cure in Nevada," he said. "All you got to do is vote."

The president said Romney can’t be trusted to protect the middle class.

"Trust matters," said Obama, speaking hoarsely at the end of a long day. "Who’s going to look out for you? Nevada, you know me by now. You know I say what I mean and I mean what I say."

Obama ticked off his accomplishments, from ending the war in Iraq to cutting taxes on the middle class. But his real goal in making his three-hour stop in Las Vegas was to build a winning edge over Romney before Election Day on Nov. 6 as Nevadans swarm to the early voting polls by the thousands.

"I’ve come to Nevada to ask you for your vote," he said. "I’ve come to ask you to keep America moving forward" instead of choosing Romney and GOP plans that he said would set the nation back.

The crowd cheered and waved Obama signs, buoyed by a program that included music and warm-up speeches by a slate of Democratic candidates, including Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is challenging U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and needs help from Obama to win her Senate race.

Pop star Katy Perry opened for the president. She wore a white dress that looked like a ballot marked for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. She said her 91-year-old grandmother lives in Las Vegas and planned to vote early.

"So if she can get up, get off the couch, you’ve got no excuse," said Perry to screams from fans who stood in line for several hours to hear her sing five songs, including "Wide Awake."

Early voting began Saturday and continues through Nov. 2.

Nearly 10 hours before the Obama rally, Romney sought early votes, too, campaigning in Nevada for a second day and telling Reno rally-goers to find people who backed Obama in 2008 and persuade them to "come out and vote for us this time."

"We’re going to get this economy cooking again," Romney told the Reno crowd of 2,000 people.

Nevada has the highest unemployment in the nation at 11.8 percent and a persistent housing crisis, making the state ripe for Romney’s argument he can do better to improve the economy.

Romney said the outcome of the election "will make a difference for the nation, will make a difference for the families of the nation and will make a difference for your family, individually and specifically."

As voters go to the polls early, the battle to gain momentum in the presidential race focused on Nevada and more than half a dozen other swing states that will determine who wins the White House and leads the nation out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Obama kicked off his two-day battleground tour by holding a rally in Iowa on Wednesday morning, followed by stops in Denver and Los Angeles to appear on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."

In Las Vegas, doors opened at 6 p.m. for the president’s "block party" at Doolittle Park. Lines snaked around the neighborhood for hours as night fell and the temperature dropped into the low 60s.

The president called his battleground blitz a "48-hour, fly-around campaign marathon extravaganza." The idea is to generate excitement and get voters to the polls early to bank enough ballots to ensure his re-election. After Nevada, he was flying overnight to Florida.

"We’re going to pull an all-nighter – no sleep," Obama told a Davenport, Iowa, crowd. "We’re starting here in Iowa. We’re going to Colorado, then we’re going to Nevada, then we’re going to Florida, Virginia, Ohio. I am going to stop in Chicago to vote."

Obama will be the first president to cast an early ballot.

While on Air Force One, the president was calling undecided voters, campaign volunteers and radio stations to promote his campaign and early voting.

En route to Denver, Obama called 50 disc jockeys, most of them African-Americans in swing states, his campaign said. Minority voters, both black and Latino, are key to the president’s re-election hopes.

Obama will cover more than 4,500 miles and visit eight states before returning to the White House on Thursday.

Leaving nothing to chance, first lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to campaign in Las Vegas on Friday at Orr Middle School. She has been here several times this year to boost her husband, who has now visited Nevada nine times this year and 17 times during his presidency.

Romney has visited Nevada nearly as often.

The former Massachusetts governor and businessman was criss-crossing the country as well, hot on Obama’s heels or ahead of him. Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., rallied more than 6,000 people in Henderson on Tuesday. Romney then campaigned in Colorado before returning to Nevada Wednesday. He was scheduled to campaign in Iowa on Wednesday as well, and then to make three stops today in Ohio, a must-win state for both Romney and Obama.

"We’re going to get this economy cooking again," Romney told the Reno crowd of 2,000 people.

Nevada has the highest unemployment in the nation at 11.8 percent and a persistent housing crisis.

Romney said the outcome of the Nov. 6 election "will make a difference for the nation, will make a difference for the families of the nation and will make a difference for your family, individually and specifically."

Polls in Nevada have shown Obama edging Romney here, including a new one released Wednesday by Public Policy Polling that showed the president with a 51-47 edge. Democrats have a 90,000-voter registration advantage over Republicans statewide. Romney, however, is hoping to drive up his support in GOP-leaning rural Nevada and in Washoe County, which Obama won in 2008 but could lose this year if Republican turnout is high.

About 70 percent of the state’s residents live in Democratic-heavy Clark County, however, giving Obama an advantage heading into Election Day as his party banks more votes than Republicans during early voting.

As of Wednesday morning, nearly one-fifth of Nevada voters had cast ballots since early voting began Saturday. It will continue through Nov. 2, and at least two-thirds of the electorate is expected to vote early.

More than 214,600 people had already voted in person or by mail, according to figures posted Wednesday by the secretary of state’s office, breaking the record pace of four years ago. Of those, more than 99,400 were Democrats and about 79,700 were Republicans – giving Democrats an edge of approximately 20,000 and growing each day so far. The remaining ballots cast were from nonpartisan voters or those registered with third parties.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Review-Journal reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.

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