FALLON — A buoyant U.S. Sen. Harry Reid said Tuesday he is seeing signs the Nevada economy is coming back, although it may take time for a full recovery.
“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Reid said in Fallon after touring a 400-acre organic farm where he sampled fresh-made wheat bread and bought a half dozen jars of homemade jam, paying $23 from his pocket . “Things aren’t great, but they’re getting better.”
It was a message the Democratic Senate leader repeated at stop after stop in Day Two of his three-day campaign bus tour across the state. And it was a made-for-TV moment as a film crew followed the 70-year-old Reid around, gathering footage for campaign ads to counter the negative image his opponents have painted of a powerful Washington politician removed from Nevadans’ lives.
“It has been a wonderful trip,” Reid said under a near cloudless sky, the smell of cut hay wafting in the air. “It’s good to get away from the big buildings and the big crowds.”
Reid dropped by a couple of coffee shops in Minden and Carson City in the morning to chat with a mostly friendly crowd of supporters, then visited a senior center in Stagecoach, followed by a tour of the Lattin Farms in Fallon and then of Amazon.com’s distribution center in Fernley, which employs 700 people.
He ended the day with a rally of more than 500 supporters at the University of Nevada Reno, where young and old alike turned out to cheer him on, and Reid campaign volunteers carrying clipboards signed up volunteers and gathered e-mail addresses to help get out the vote in the fall.
Despite the choreographed campaign trip, Reid also encountered scattered protests along the way, including a woman, honking her car horn and flipping the bird to his bus in Carson City as he left the state capital.
And, outside TJ’s Pizza Shack in Fernley, a dozen people shouted and held up signs signaling their displeasure, such as: “Welcome to Reid’s throw Nevada under the bus tour.”
“I want Senator Reid sent back to Searchlight,” sign holder Orlis Trone of Fernley said. “I don’t like socialism, and I don’t like the welfare state, and that’s what the Democrats like Reid want.”
Trone called himself a conservative and a registered Republican but said he does not like any of the dozen GOP contenders for Reid’s job either, or the independents running for that matter.
“I’d vote for Sarah Palin if she were running, but she’s not,” he said of the GOP’s vice presidential candidate in 2008, who led an anti-Reid protest in Reid’s hometown of Searchlight on March 27, attracting up to 10,000 demonstrators.
In answer to the pizza parlor protest, more than a half dozen pro-Reid union supporters who have been tagging along with the campaign held up “We Love Reid” signs and chanted “Harry, Harry, Harry.”
Inside TJ’s Pizza Shack, Reid ignored it all and chatted up supporters such as Inez and George Butterfield, Democrats who moved to Nevada from Hawaii because the cost of living was too high.
They told Reid that the health care insurance overhaul means they can cover their two sons until age 26.
“We wanted to thank him for what he’s done,” George Butterfield said.
During the morning stop in Minden, Reid told coffee sippers at 88 Cups that he had just spoken to a Las Vegas homebuilder who told him he might start construction again.
The senator also said the owner of the Searchlight Nugget told him business was up the past two months in his hometown.
“I’ve been happy this trip home,” said Reid, who noted his only mishap from the bus trip has been slamming his thumb in the bathroom door.
“The first injury of the trip,” he said, wiping away a bit of blood on his right shaking hand.
Republican critics of the Democratic senator have pointed to Nevada’s record high unemployment rate of 13 percent and record home foreclosures as proof the state has fared poorly under the current administration. And they blame Reid, too, for not doing more to help the state.
Democrats and Reid counter they inherited a crashing economy and have saved the country and the world from a deeper recession.
Reid said the stock market is up, the economy is picking up and new jobs should start coming on line as businesses gain confidence and begin hiring. Developing projects like the 1 million solar panel energy plant Reid visited Monday also are adding hundreds of jobs, mostly for construction.
At his Comma Coffee stop in Carson City, Reid said lawmakers will tackle Wall Street finance reform when he returns to Washington next week. And Congress will find ways to create jobs with money to be repaid by banks that benefited from bailout funds that saved them from collapse.
“We can no longer have businesses that are too big to fail. We’re going to go after Wall Street pretty hard,” Reid said, sitting across the table from a man in his 60s, wearing suspenders.
Reid cracked a few jokes when asked about immigration during a short question-and-answer session after his table-to-table talks.
A man suggested more illegal immigrants of childbearing ages be allowed to stay in America to boost the young population that supports aging baby boomers.
After a pause, Reid quipped, “Let me answer it this way: I’m not opposed to sex,” winning laughs from the standing- room-only gathering of 100-plus people.
Reid added that, speaking of sex, “Tiger Woods is making a comeback,” a reference to the golfer’s professional return this week after acknowledging several affairs.
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