Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 | 7 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 | 10:33 p.m.
With the economy still fragile and his re-election prospects uncertain, President Barack Obama hasn't quite been able to muster the rock star status in 2012 that helped carried him to victory in 2008.
But Wednesday night, with the help of a little pre-speech singing by Katy Perry, he mustered the old groove for a crowd of 13,000 in Doolittle Park.
Obama stopped in Las Vegas tonight for a rally on the third leg of a multistop tour of swing states that began in Iowa this morning, and in the next two days will take him to Colorado, Florida, Virginia and Ohio.
"We are pulling an all-nighter. No sleep," Obama told the crowd. "And if you're not going to sleep you might as well be in Vegas."
The president is crashing through six swing states in three days, shoring up support in those that have been tipping in his favor, and trying to pump up Democrats to go storm the polls in the states that lately have been teetering toward Romney.
Together, the stops are a preview of the states the nation will likely be watching on Election Night, as somewhere within their combined 82 electoral votes are the points that will put one candidate or the other over the top.
Obama has been polling a few points ahead of Romney in Iowa, Nevada and Ohio, and holding an even slighter lead in Colorado. But in Florida, Romney holds a slight edge — and in Virginia, they are all but dead even.
But with all of those numbers falling well within the margin of error, neither candidate is presuming to presage the outcome of this race.
So Obama made a point of emphatically, directly, and sometimes comically, asking the Las Vegans gathered for their vote.
"I've come to Nevada to ask you for your vote. I've come to ask you to help me keep America moving forward," Obama said. "You can choose the top-down policies that got us into this mess or you can choose the ones that are getting us out."
Obama then went on to accuse Romney of not actually having policies that voters could consider if they tried.
"He's hoping you will come down with a severe case of Romnesia before you cast your ballot," Obama said, citing the term his campaign has coined to diagnose what they consider to be flip-flopping on the part of the Romney campaign, especially in the weeks since the televised presidential debates started. The last of those debates was on Monday night.
"But Las Vegas, if you feel any symptoms ... fever, or a ringing in your ears, blurred vision — not being able to remember what you said just last week? If it's coming on, good news, is, we can fix you up," he said. "Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions ... There's a cure, Nevada! All you gotta do is vote!"
But despite humor — and a favorable-looking voter registration advantage — Obama's campaign has stressed they are not taking anything in the state for granted. The sentiment was reinforced throughout Wednesday night's ceremonies by a none-too-subtle freestanding 6-foot-tall sign to the right of the stage that reminded the audience to "VOTE EARLY."
Arriving in Las Vegas around 9 p.m., the president stepped off Air Force One to a welcoming group that included eight Nevada politicians and union leaders and a crowd of about 60 friends and families of campaign supporters. He shook hands and posed for pictures with the various leaders that included: Clark County Commissioner Susan Brager, state Sen. Mo Denis and Las Vegas Councilman Ricki Barlow, among others.
Then he ventured into the crowd to greet supporters. The moment was better than new parents Kyle and Nicole Singer could have imagined. When the president reached them, he held their 2-month-old daughter, Lillian, and kissed her head. The moment drew laughs and coos from the crowd and left Nicole Singer giddy. The moment gave them the perfect Christmas card.
“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Kyle Singer said. “We’re going to show her when she gets older.”
Obama then took off in his motorcade for Doolittle Park just after 9:05 p.m.
Las Vegas has become a hotspot for presidential campaign visits this season. In the last week alone, Vice President Joe Biden, presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan, and now the president have graced the city and its suburbs. First lady Michelle Obama pops into town on Friday.
Their back-to-back appearances have inspired plenty of local vitriol about the state of traffic snarls. But it has also given locals a front-row seat to be persuaded by the candidates and convinced by how they sell their plans.
Romney told a crowd of about 6,000 (a campaign estimate) at the Henderson Pavilion Tuesday that "we cannot handle four more years" of Obama's presidency, in a speech where he highlighted his business acumen and his experience slashing budgets and creating jobs to persuade voters that he was the best primed candidate to fix the local economy in Nevada and reintroduce a "6 percent" unemployment rate to the state.
Romney has been criticized in the last 24 hours for being overly optimistic for that estimate, which many Nevadans believe is impractical considering how severe the state's economic ills are.
Obama offered Nevada no hard number estimates. But he did outline a few special interests for Nevada in running through the top-line points of his economic plan.
“I don’t want solar panels made in China. I want them made here in Nevada,” Obama said, as he ticked off other goals: Ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, cutting oil imports in half by 2020, and keeping college tuition low.
"I want you to compare my plan to Gov. Romney's plan,” Obama told the crowd. “See which plan is better for you. See which plan is better for Nevada. See which plan is better for America's future.”
But Obama admitted to the crowd that numbers or plans or promises about the next four years would not likely be what decides this election.
“There's no more serious issue in the presidential campaign than who can you trust,” Obama said. “Trust matters. Who's going to look out for you.”
He was tapping into a theme that had been building throughout the night. Trust us, the Nevada Democrats who preceded Obama kept saying throughout the night to the crowd, as they told Obama’s personal stories and their own to illustrate why the audience of potential voters should.
“[Obama] knows what it is like to start from so little,” said Steven Horsford, the Democrat running against Republican Danny Tarkanian to represent Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, and the first candidate for federal office to speak Wednesday night. “That's why he's fighting to make sure everyone gets a fair chance to succeed in life.”
“Barack Obama and I, we've got your back,” said Shelley Berkley, the Nevada congresswoman running against Republican Dean Heller for the Senate. “President Barack Obama and I believe we’re all in this together.”
That was exactly the message the president attempted to get across.
“We've got a long way to go Nevada but we've come too far to go back now. We cannot afford to go backward to the policies that got us into this mess,” Obama said. “We've got to go forward and that's why I am running for a second term as president of the United States. That's why I need your vote.”
It certainly sounded like a swan song on Nevada visits. But don’t count on it.
In an interview with the Sun last weekend, deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said there was a real chance that Obama could return before the election season is over, even with only 13 days left to go.
If the president’s current trip itinerary is any indicator, Nevada may just be one of only six states where each and every vote really matters.