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November 25, 2014

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President urges party faithful to get behind Harry Reid

Obama calls on supporters to campaign door to door to bolster the senator’s chances in November

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Sam Morris

President Barack Obama joins Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a campaign rally Thursday at Aria.

President Obama Campaigns For Reid

President Barack Obama speaks at the Aria resort Thursday night campaigning for Senator Harry Reid.

Obama Campaigns for Reid

President Barack Obama is thanked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid after a campaign speech July 8, 2010, at Aria. Launch slideshow »

Obama Lands in Las Vegas

President Obama steps off Air Force One on Wednesday at McCarran International Airport for a two-day stay in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s weeklong campaign swing was intended to show he can deliver not only economy-stimulating government projects to Nevada, but also the Democratic Party’s rock star campaigner, President Barack Obama.

Speaking Thursday evening at a rally for Reid in CityCenter’s Aria, Obama showed yet again his facility for speech-making and energizing a crowd — skills Reid can only envy.

“There’s a guy from Searchlight, Nevada, who has been fighting for Nevada his whole life, and he’s fighting for working-class families,” Obama said of Reid. “He comes across soft-spoken. But anyone who knows Harry knows he’s made of strong stuff. He’s one tough guy.”

“He doesn’t always do what’s easy, he doesn’t always do what’s popular, but he always does what’s right.”

It was the second time this year that Obama has traveled to Las Vegas to campaign for Reid, who has been a key figure in implementing the president’s agenda.

But as Reid seeks to parlay Obama’s political might into a victory in November, he might be tapping a dwindling source of political capital.

In the middle of his first term, Obama has seen his approval rating in Nevada and nationwide dip as the country struggles through a recession, a disastrous oil spill and two wars.

“That star is rather tarnished after two years in office,” said Fred Lokken, a political scientist at Truckee Meadows Community College. “But I don’t think they would be wasting the president’s time if they didn’t have an indication that Obama is still someone who is a draw and whose endorsement has some value in Nevada.”

Republicans eagerly note the recent defeat of candidates Obama has campaigned for in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. It’s an indication his midterm campaign efforts are failing, they say.

“It’s definitely an interesting strategy,” Nevada Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei said. “If you look at the other places the president has gone, he doesn’t have a plethora of successes.”

Indeed, in recent campaign appearances Obama has been forced not only to argue on behalf of Democratic incumbents, but also defend his work on the economy.

Noting concern over the nation’s rising debt, Obama told the Aria crowd that the blame lies with Republicans’ mismanagement of the economy during George W. Bush’s eight years in the White House.

“You have to understand we are headed in the right direction and what the other side is offering is basically to go back to the same ideas that got us into this mess in the first place,” the president said. “This is a choice between the politics that led us into the mess or the politics that are leading us out of the mess.”

That was also the message Reid hoped to impart in his weeklong campaign swing, which highlighted his work to secure $600 million for a veterans hospital in Southern Nevada, the creation of a solar development zone at the Nevada Test Site and his rescue of CityCenter.

Reid brought along Cabinet members in addition to the president.

Although Obama has seen his popularity fade, particularly with independent voters, he still appears capable of energizing the Democratic base — voters who will be key if Reid is to win re-election, given the majority leader’s unpopularity with Republicans.

“There are a tremendous number of people who participated in the political process in ’08 because of his (Obama’s) candidacy,” said Dan Hart, a Las Vegas Democratic consultant. “If he can reach out to those people and get them re-engaged and re-energized, then he is doing a great service to Sen. Reid.

“And nobody can communicate better with those people than him.”

Obama didn’t mention Reid Republican challenger Sharron Angle by name but said her views are “more extreme than the Republicans we have in Washington.”

“She wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare, wants to eliminate our investment in clean energy, wants to eliminate our investment in our children’s education.”

It was near the end of his speech that Obama made his plea to Reid’s supporters: “This is going to be a close election. Everybody here I expect will vote for Harry ... It’s not enough for you just to vote for him. I need you to work for him. I need you to knock on doors for him. I need you to make phone calls for him.”

Whether that happens remains to be seen, but the Obama brand appeared to still resonate with the crowd.

A 35-member coalition of Las Vegans who support immigration reform got in line four hours before the event. They wore T-shirts stating, “We need you Obama, keep pushing.”

One coalition leader, 22-year-old UNLV student Michael Flores, said he came to the rally because “Reid is a hero in Nevada.”

“I want someone in power who can bring things to Nevada,” Flores said. “I don’t see any valid points in what Sharron Angle is saying. She’s out of touch.”

George Matz, 83, a retired business agent, said he supports Obama and Reid despite the nation’s ongoing economic troubles.

“Most of that was inherited. In the eight years we had with President Bush, this country went downhill.

“I don’t know what’s going to create more jobs,” Matz said. “But Reid’s doing a good job for the country and he has continuously delivered for senior citizens.”

Not all Democratic candidates saw value in standing with Obama Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who faces one of the most difficult re-election bids in the country, initially was going to skip Obama’s Thursday’s rally.

She made a point of saying so on “Face to Face With Jon Ralston.”

“My record continues just as it has been: working to help people get insurance, working to help people stay in their homes, get tax breaks,” she said. “Those are the things I’m doing, not the Obama rally, not the Democratic talking points.”

Her spokesman, Andrew Stoddard, said Titus wasn’t trying to distance herself from Obama, but was refuting Ralston’s suggestion that she was parroting party talking points.

As late as 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Stoddard confirmed twice that Titus planned only to greet Obama at the airport and attend his speech today at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. However, Titus changed her mind and attended the campaign rally.

But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid, who is Harry Reid’s son, did not. Instead, he was campaigning in Reno as previously planned, his spokesman said.

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