As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama prepared for a fundraiser Tuesday evening to help get Reid re-elected, about 100 protesters worked the Strip in hopes of preventing just that.
Carrying signs and chanting slogans such as "Heave ho! Reid must go!" the protesters in front of Caesars Palace, where the fundraising concert was to take place, criticized Reid’s "tax-and-spend," "big government" ways.
"I’m not a big fan of what’s going on in D.C.," said the 6-foot-4, heavily tattooed Dan Stephens, a local tattoo artist who brought his three young daughters and also-heavily-tattooed wife to the protest. "It seems like our representatives have forgotten who hired them."
The mostly Republican protesters said they want representatives who advocate for small government and are against tax increases.
"We need someone who shares our core principles: family, self-sufficiency, low taxes and getting government out of our lives," said Dean Meek, a 51-year-old property manager who was carrying a sign that read: "Don’t tax me, bro."
The protest was organized by Our Country Deserves Better PAC, a conservative, California-based political action committee that is campaigning against Reid’s re-election.
The committee held a news conference Tuesday morning in Las Vegas to highlight its $100,000 anti-Reid ad campaign. Radio, television and Internet ads calling Reid a tax-and-spender who does not respect the military were airing statewide, timed to coincide with the president’s visit.
Many of the protesters Tuesday evening said they heard about the event on talk radio.
Passers-by cheered or jeered. Curious tourists stopped to ask: "Who’s Harry Reid?"
Hundreds others lined access roads to Caesars hoping to catch a glimpse of Obama as he made his way to the venue.
"I came down to support Obama. He’s such a refreshing change," said Parris Lane, 50, who waved a small American flag and chanted Obama’s name in response to the protesters. "We have someone really smart in charge, who makes everyone feel like part of things."
Inside, the line to get into the fundraiser snaked through the casino. Well-dressed concertgoers said they came to support Reid and could not pass up the opportunity to see Obama in person.
"We supported him all the way from Italy," said Giovanni Coinu, a constitutional law professor there who was thrilled that his Vegas vacation coincided with the fundraiser. "We had T-shirts made up, and we followed him all the way to the presidency."
Jeanne, a local, "over-50" business executive who declined to give her last name, said the $300 she forked out for her ticket would be well worth it.
"I wanted to hear what the president had to say about Las Vegas," she said. "Plus, we get entertainment on top of it."
Protesters outside criticized what the president had to say about Las Vegas not long ago, when Obama mentioned Vegas junkets as the type of corporate excess that federal dollars shouldn’t be funding.
"Shame on President Obama, pointing fingers at Las Vegas, and here he is campaigning for Harry Reid," said protester Karina Ostenberg, 29.
"Reid needs to stand up for us," she added.
Sharron Angle, a Republican former assemblywoman from Reno who is a possible Reid challenger for 2010, agreed.
"He should at least have defended us," Angle said as she shook protesters’ hands.
At the morning news conference, Angle had urged donations to the exploratory committee for her candidacy, saying the strength of the financial support would determine whether she decides to run. Angle declined to disclose how much she has raised so far.
"Money talks," she said. "With Harry Reid, it’s going to take more than just good intentions. It’s going to take a lot of money to take him out."
Las Vegas Review-Journal writer Molly Ball contributed to this report. Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal. com or 702-383-0285.Slide show