Bernie Sanders needs Nevada. So does Hillary Clinton.
The two Democratic presidential candidates are aggressively campaigning in Nevada. Both courted Nevada voters throughout the weekend, ending with separate rallies Sunday.
The wooing is reaching a crucial stage. For the rest of the week, the Silver State will be ground zero for the campaigns, both of them desperate for a win in the third early voting state for Democrats and the first in the West for either party. Nevada Democrats will caucus on Saturday, choosing between a former secretary of state and a U.S. senator from Vermont.
Whatever the results are on Saturday, a caucus win will give an edge to either campaign. Clinton scored a narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses, while Sanders won the Democratic primary in New Hampshire.
Sanders made it clear he’s hoping a win in Nevada will add fuel to his campaign, which began with underdog status last year.
“If we can win here in Nevada, we send a profound message to the entire country, and that message is that the people of this country will no longer accept establishment politics,” Sanders said to about 2,100 roaring spectators packed into the gym at Bonanza High School.
“This campaign is not about me and not about you,” Sanders said. “It’s about us working together.”
Sanders’ stump speech reiterated themes of his campaign: that there is income inequality that favors a privileged class of billionaires and that middle-class Americans need to prosper. Sanders backs paid family and medical leave, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and boosting the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“Together what we are going to say to Wall Street and to corporate America and to corporate media and to the big campaign donors is that this country doesn’t belong to them,” Sanders said. “It belongs to all of us.”
In a nod to Nevada’s plight during the Great Recession, Sanders said, “No state in the country has suffered more from the greed and illegal behavior of Wall Street.”
Sanders dismissed the notion that his ideas are too big or costly.
“Well, the war in Iraq was pretty damn expensive,” Sanders said.
He also took aim at his Democratic opponent, reminding supporters that he opposed the invasion of Iraq and voted against it in the Senate. Clinton, who was then Sanders’ Senate colleague, voted in 2002 to authorize military force in Iraq.
“One of the candidates voted against and one voted for,” Sanders said.
Sanders campaigned in Reno on Saturday and Las Vegas on Sunday, and Clinton campaigned Saturday and Sunday in Southern Nevada. Both candidates also spoke Sunday morning at Victory Missionary Baptist Church in Las Vegas.
Clinton’s campaigning on Sunday ended with a rally at Mountain Shadows Community Center on the western end of the Las Vegas metropolitan area. About 650 attended.
“There’s something unique about this election because the differences of how we see our future could not be starker,” Clinton said, adding she didn’t like the Republican side of “really mean-spirited rhetoric that attacks so many kinds of people.”
“This is a very consequential election,” she said. “I believe with all my heart that our country can be just as strong, as prosperous, as united in the future as we have been in the past.”
Clinton stressed the need to grow jobs and incomes, reminding her audience of the economic prosperity under her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, during the 1990s.
“I’m not standing here promising you something I can’t deliver,” Clinton said. “I’m telling you we can do this again.”
For Clinton, the pathway to building the economy is investing more in infrastructure such as roads and bridges and increasing renewable energy, making
more solar panels part of the electric system.
Jobs like building roads cannot be exported, Clinton said.
“These are jobs that have to be done right here,” she said.
Clinton said she’ll go after “bad actors” who impact the economy, adding they extend beyond just banks.
“We will go after the bad actors, but I differ with my distinguished opponent because I think there are more bad actors than just the big banks,” Clinton said. “I’m the only one with a plan to go after them.”
— Contact Ben Botkin at email@example.com or 702-405-9781. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1