It was a day candidates couldn’t help giving windy political speeches.
The line of partisans Tuesday morning stretched around the Henderson Pavilion and well down Paseo Verde Parkway. Some hauled homemade signs, others folding beach chairs. All were motivated to brave the breeze to hear reassuring words from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan on the day after the final debate of the presidential campaign season.
The location was no accident. For some local Republicans, one of the unwritten final scenes of the campaign is set in battleground Nevada with the final votes that swing our state and the entire election coming from precincts right in the heart of Green Valley.
A Team Romney spokesman calls Henderson the “epicenter” of the “economic catastrophe” they argue occurred under the Obama administration. It made an ideal setting for making metaphors about a failing economy and housing crisis.
If Nevada’s six electoral votes turn out to make a big difference in the election and Team Romney’s dream comes true, officials on the ground will look politically prescient. The thousands who attended Tuesday’s rally will be able to look back fondly and remember the time they turned out to support future President Romney and Vice President Ryan in their first tandem appearance in Nevada.
The problem with dramatic scenarios is this: With early voting becoming increasingly popular, the degree of turnout “enthusiasm” will be known well before Nov. 6, and in Nevada.
Democrats hold a six-figure voter registration advantage. Results from the first days of early voting appear to reflect that substantial Democratic advantage.
Four years ago, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin packed the pavilion and thrilled thousands. She was pop-star popular and gave a polished stump speech.
It made absolutely no difference in the final outcome. Standing in the long shadow of the final years of the George W. Bush presidency, the McCain-Palin ticket got slaughtered.
But now it’s Obama fatigue that Republicans are feeling, and this time they have an undeniable softening of support for the president from working-class voters who loathed Bush but have now gone cold for the incumbent.
The Obama campaign has countered the sagging of its middle with middle-class themes and a massive registration effort among Latino, college and new voters.
In Nevada, with its superior Democratic political machine thanks to the efforts of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, registration favors the Ds even if the mood favors the Rs.
And so they fight on.
Each side continues to go to great lengths to remind wary Nevada voters just how important we are. (Smart, savvy, ethical, discerning, and good-looking, too!) I suppose experiencing around-the-clock stalking by campaigns and all those creepy third-party television commercials is a compliment in an Orwellian sort of way.
Team Romney Nevada spokesman Mason Harrison calls the Silver State the campaign’s “canary in the coal mine,” meaning they believe it’s an accurate snapshot of a bigger political picture.
What he needn’t say is that Romney and Ryan were on the ground Tuesday because they believed they could help boost the campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort.
“If there’s a state that’s really been impacted by the national economy, it’s Nevada,” Harrison says. “Them coming out here after all the debates and beginning their closing argument in Nevada is important.”
Obama, meanwhile, isn’t resting on Monday’s debate performance. (He rested enough during the first debate to last the rest of the campaign.)
He will lead a rally at Doolittle Park tonight that features the renowned pop star and political scientist Katy Perry. (Remember the youth vote.)
Perhaps the president appreciates that, at this point, the last thing his supporters need to hear is another stump speech.
While Republicans might be right, and Henderson might turn out to be campaign’s tipping point, I am inclined to think that moment for Nevada could already be occurring in a working-class Latino neighborhood like the ones United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez and Nevada Democrats canvassed last weekend in an effort to get out the vote and help congressional candidate Steven Horsford.
Rodriguez carries real credibility in the Hispanic community.
“I think the canvassing shows that there’s a lot of energy being put into this race in terms of crossing the finish line,” Horsford campaign spokesman Tim Hogan says. “We have a lot of support out there to help us do that. People are still very energized about the race.”
And early votes count just as much as those cast on Election Day.
After the experts have opined, the obscene millions have been spent, and most of the speeches have floated away on the late October wind, neither side of the great presidential race is certain it has Nevada figured out.
And that’s why we’re still being courted.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Smith.