Keith Boag is a Canadian journalist who thinks California is the greatest state in the US and he loves DC. As someone who has lived in California and was raised in “DC”, that’s Democrat enough for me. He’s traveling across the country on his way to the Republican Convention and logging reports from the places he stops along the way. He spent a few days in Las Vegas and found a conservative columnist crying that Romney is going to blow Nevada:
What I learned, though, is that Nevada isn’t really up for grabs this election. It’s spoken for. You might think I’m suggesting that its unemployment rate, the highest in the country at 12 per cent, and its significant Mormon population means this election it’s Mitt Romney’s turn to win Nevada, but that’s not so. Curiously, in spite of those facts, Nevada seems poised to give its six electoral votes to President Obama again.
Local columnist and newspaper publisher Sherman Frederick told me over drinks that he is stunned by this fact. The dismal economic realities of Las Vegas seem not to matter. “I look at the polls and Romney’s going to get his head handed to him here,” he says. One man’s view, perhaps, but Frederick is a conservative and he finds what’s unfolding, or more accurately, what’s not unfolding, hard to take. He believes in a natural order of politics, where incumbents pay a price when the economy is tanking on their watch.
So one conservative is pulling his hair out because Romney hasn’t put the hammer down on Obama yet. That opinion is not unique. But it’s mid-August and the campaign has barely begun so let’s move on:
Nevada’s Brookings Institution scholar David Danmore agrees there’s something counter-intuitive happening here. “Why is Romney not walking away with Nevada?” he asks rhetorically in my direction. And then he attempts an explanation that it’s clear he’s not fully satisfied by himself. “Nevada as this traditional, sparsely populated, rural, white state doesn’t really hold anymore. And that’s led to a lot of changes in our politics.”
Some basic facts about Nevada:
- It’s an overwhelmingly urban state. There is lots of wide-open rural space on the physical map, but almost no one lives out there. The political map of Nevada is different. On that map Nevada is a densely populated urban area growing out from Las Vegas in the south and Reno in the north. Almost nothing else shows up on the political map.
- Nevada has one dominant economic driver, the gaming industry. Gaming is a service industry. It’s heavily unionized and those union jobs (dealing cards, cleaning hotel rooms, waiting on tables, etc.) can’t be outsourced to the other side of the world.
- Migration into Nevada has been heavily Hispanic and African American.
These are the basic ingredients of a Democratic stronghold, and the polls show Obama consistently with a four to six point lead over Romney in Nevada. That’s not a landslide, but for this President in this economy, it’s remarkable. Perhaps it’s time to stop thinking of Nevada’s as an “up for grabs” swing state.
The three points outlined above are the exact Democrat talking points for why they will carry Nevada. Talk to me in mid-September and we’ll see if Obama is really leading by 4 – 6 points as alleged. For what it’s worth, the Dean of Nevada journalism is with me thus far.