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November 25, 2014

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ELECTION 2008:

Family members star in campaigns’ last act

Obama’s wife, McCain’s daughter make late pitches for early votes

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Leila Navidi

Michelle Obama, wife of Sen. Barack Obama, enters a rally Monday at Doolittle Park in Las Vegas. She urged the Democratic presidential candidate’s backers not to be complacent, saying, “Barack Obama is the underdog until he’s sitting in the Oval Office.”

Michelle Obama stumps in Las Vegas

The crowd cheers as Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, speaks at a rally at Doolittle Park in Las Vegas Monday evening. Launch slideshow »

Michelle Obama Rally

Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, visits Las Vegas.

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Meghan McCain, left, daughter of Sen. John McCain, visits phone bank volunteers Monday in Henderson, with Linda Ramone, center, and Chuck Heath Jr., Gov. Sarah Palin's brother.

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Meghan McCain, center, daughter of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, greets volunteer Sunnie Dotson, 56, of Henderson at the McCain campaign headquarters Monday.

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Both presidential candidates are using every available body — starting with their families — to press for early votes and round up volunteers for a final push.

Michelle Obama is swinging through the Western states that may decide next Tuesday’s outcome, serving as something of a coda to her husband’s presidential campaign. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was here Saturday.

On Monday, she returned to Las Vegas from California, where she taped “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and then went to a fundraiser at the Wynn. At Doolittle Park, she admonished her husband’s supporters to finish their job.

“Sit down with your parents, your sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles,” she told them. “You all know folks who aren’t engaged ... who aren’t inspired ... folks who don’t think their vote matters. Tell them they’re wrong. Challenge them to rise to this moment. Make sure they know about early voting here in Nevada ... and make sure they know how easy it is, and important it is, to vote in this election.”

Her visit came on the heels of what aides have called Obama’s 10-day “red state tour,” which culminated in a two-day swing through three key Western states, including Nevada. Michelle Obama will reinforce her husband’s message today in New Mexico and Colorado before heading to North Carolina Wednesday.

Michelle Obama was a Princeton- and Harvard-educated corporate lawyer before taking a leave to help her husband, and she’s become a key campaign asset, despite a moment in which she said she was proud of America for the first time following her husband’s electoral success. She’s since said she meant she was proud of America’s politics for the first time.

Cognizant of the landscape and the fight for women, Republican Sen. John McCain sent his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, to Henderson last week, where she made a custom-tailored appeal to women.

McCain’s daughter Meghan and Palin’s brother Chuck Heath Jr. fired up volunteers at the Arizona Senator’s Henderson headquarters Monday afternoon.

Meghan McCain, accompanied by Linda Ramone, the widow of punk guitarist Johnny Ramone, also visited volunteers in Pahrump and Las Vegas Monday.

McCain, who has become something of a campaign celebrity with her own blog, thanked the volunteers in Henderson and said she loves Las Vegas, with a knowing tongue-in-her-cheek, which seemed to mean she enjoys the night life here.

Volunteers and staff were set to grill pork chops outside the office, as a way to remind taxpayers that they’ll have to pay for a lot of pork-barrel spending if Obama is elected.

Surrogates will be doing much of the campaigning here, as Obama and McCain spend most of their time fighting it out back East in states that President Bush won four years ago.

McCain and Palin will be focusing on Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana in the closing week of the campaign. The Republican ticket is also making a play for Pennsylvania.

In Nevada, both campaigns are putting the focus on turning out their supporters early.

Through the weekend, nearly 26 percent of Clark County’s active voters — 211,178 — had cast ballots in early voting.

Saturday was the single largest day of early voting as 26,839 people cast ballots.

So far, Democrats have outpaced Republicans in early voting, 116,541 to 60,230. That’s not an indication of which candidates are winning, however, because only the voters’ party identity is known, not their choices at the polls.

Western states such as Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico could be decided by Hispanic voters, which is why the Obama campaign went up with an aggressive Spanish-language ad campaign this week, which the campaign announced Monday. Obama, borrowing a page from President George W. Bush, speaks Spanish in the ad.

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