As 76-year-old Mary Peterson waited for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Shelley Berkley to speak Thursday in Las Vegas at the grand opening of Barack Obama’s “Campaign for Change” state headquarters, she admitted she was worried about a recent poll that showed Republican Sen. John McCain running slightly ahead of the senator she supports from Illinois.
“It’s scary,” she said of a Monday Rasmussen Reports poll that showed McCain was favored by 45 percent of Nevadans, while 42 percent favored Obama.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who say they’re unhappy with the direction the country is going, but they say they’re not voting,” Peterson said. “I think we may be dealing with a deep-seated racism, but they’re not talking about it. I’m afraid I’ve seen that in people my age.”
With her 36-year-old grandson beside her, Peterson stood under a tent to ward off the sun that had the temperature soaring to 109.
“I wish Obama would talk about race more,” she said. “I know he talked about it in Philadelphia, but I think more needs to be said.”
More than 100 people of all ethnic backgrounds showed up at the new headquarters off Eastern Avenue near Desert Inn Road. What was talked about on this day by Democratic staffers is that volunteers such as Peterson had to work hard to defeat McCain.
“Don’t think for a minute that this is going to be … easy,” Berkley told the audience.
Reid noted that he served both in the House of Representatives and the Senate with the sometimes volatile McCain. To loud applause, he said McCain had to be defeated because he not only had the wrong temperament to be president, but also because he supported the war in Iraq, President Bush’s economic plan, and storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.
“He’s not good for Nevada,” Reid said.
According to Kirsten Searer, the new state headquarters that opened Thursday is one of 11 offices that will be “up and running” this week in Nevada. There will be 75 paid staffers, she said.
Searer said that while the headquarters will serve as the “nerve center” for the Obama campaign, volunteers for congressional and state legislative campaigns also will work out of the offices.
Rick Gorka, a McCain staffer, said Thursday that Republicans will have volunteers working for McCain out of nine offices across Nevada. Zachary Moyle, executive director of the Nevada Republican Party, said his party will have 35 paid staffers.
Gorka said he isn’t surprised that the Arizona senator has a lead over Obama, although he expects the polls to swing back and forth until the election.
“He’s a man of character,” he said, noting that Nevadans who may not favor nuclear waste storage in their state “still respect a man who takes a position. … He puts the country before politics.”
Terrence Tolbert, the state director of the Obama campaign, said Thursday that once Nevadans learn McCain’s views on issues “from our thousands of volunteers” they’ll know whom to support.
One of the volunteers is Steve Fernlund, president of the Red Rock Democratic Club. He knows he has to get all the staunch supporters of Hillary Clinton behind Obama.
“I’m perplexed that some women say they don’t want to vote for Obama,” he said. “They have to realize that the Supreme Court could overturn the right to abortion if another Republican gets in.”PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL TO VISIT RENO
CARSON CITY — Sen. Barack Obama will return to Nevada on Sunday with a visit in Reno, his campaign announced Thursday.
No further details were available.
His last visit to Nevada was May 27, when the presumptive Democratic nominee for president held a town hall meeting in North Las Vegas.
Obama, D-Ill., was still locked in a primary battle with Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., at the time.
In a demonstration of how much has changed since then, Clinton stumped for Obama in Henderson on Aug. 8.
The following day, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain spoke to a veterans’ group in Las Vegas.
The candidates’ visits are indications that Nevada, considered a swing state, will be hotly contested between the two parties in November.
REVIEW-JOURNAL CAPITAL BUREAU