Reid's Tips On A Night in Vegas
It's debate day in the Silver State, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a few tips for the seven Democratic presidential candidates who square off tonight in Las Vegas.
For starters, don't put all your eggs in the Culinary Union's basket. Sure, it represents 60,000 casino workers and all Democrats are vying for its endorsement. And it is the biggest, best organized group in the state. But Reid cautioned that this year, without Democratic turnout expected to soar, one support base won't be enough.
"What if no one gets the endorsement? What if they decide to stay neutral?" Reid said. "My point being, that's not the answer. The answer is, who has the best ground operation? There's a lot of support of unions already for different candidates. This is a competitive race. Of course the culinary is important, but it's not going determine who's going to win or lose."
Other groups worth courting include the state's large veterans population, along with different minority groups -- Nevada is far more diverse than Iowa or New Hampshire. Along with large Hispanic and African American populations, "we have the fastest growing Asian American population in America," Reid boasted. Another faction with political sway: the local environmental movement, which crusades against sprawl and to prevent Yucca Mountain from becoming the nation's nuclear waste dump.
For Reid, securing the No. 3 slot on the Democratic nominating calendar may be one of his biggest political coups. "I've worked very hard to get the caucus and I'm excited that it's here," he said. But it's also a crucial test market for Democrats as they seek to build a national majority.
"If you want to win the presidency, you've got to win it in the West. And the road to winning the presidency in the west is through Nevada," Reid said.
What does that mean? "It means tourism, it means public lands, it means water, it means minerals, and it means other policies that every other community in America faces. We in the West have the same issues that you have in the East. We have big cities, we have traffic problems."
Nevada also has a few casinos, and right now the odds-on favorite to win the state is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who holds a commanding lead in recent polls. Reid's son, Rory, is chairing her Nevada campaign. As the chairman of the Clark County C0mmission, the younger Reid may be the most powerful local Democrat in the state, perhaps a successor to his father some day.
But the elder Reid said he'll stay on the sidelines for the duration. "I wish he hadn't gotten involved, but he did," Reid said of his son. "But that's all you can read into it. The fact is, he's 40 years old and I can't tell him what to do."
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