My weekend in Nevada

I am as exhausted as I've been in a long time having just returned from a long weekend of canvassing and rallying for Obama in Las Vegas. Nevada has traditionally leaned red, and it went to Bush in 2000 and 2004. Polls shows a near coin toss right now in Nevada. Its five electoral votes may not mean much, but just as a symbol, we (I use the royal we, my support for Obama being no secret) would desperately love to win it this time around.

It was an eventful and exciting weekend for team Obama:

  • The Chicago Tribune endorsed Obama. Growing up in Chicago, I was used to seeing their blue masthead bleed red election after election, so this endorsement is a pleasant surprise.

    Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them.

    We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

    We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.

    The change that Obama talks about so much is not simply a change in this policy or that one. It is not fundamentally about lobbyists or Washington insiders. Obama envisions a change in the way we deal with one another in politics and government. His opponents may say this is empty, abstract rhetoric. In fact, it is hard to imagine how we are going to deal with the grave domestic and foreign crises we face without an end to the savagery and a return to civility in politics.


    This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party's nominee for president.


    McCain failed in his most important executive decision. Give him credit for choosing a female running mate--but he passed up any number of supremely qualified Republican women who could have served. Having called Obama not ready to lead, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin's exposure to the public. But it's clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment's notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country.

    Obama chose a more experienced and more thoughtful running mate--he put governing before politicking. Sen. Joe Biden doesn't bring many votes to Obama, but he would help him from day one to lead the country.

  • Colin Powell endorsed Obama this morning. It was once thought that he might be the first African-American to be President, but it was not to be. But his part in this saga was still to be played, and today was that day. Ken texted me from the East Coast at around 9am PST: "Powell endosed Obama on MtP." It was the perfect start to the morning and fired up the volunteer team for the morning rally in Chinatown.

    Republican former House speaker Newt Gingrich said on ABC's "This Week": "What that just did in one sound bite -- and I assume that sound bite will end up in an ad -- is it eliminated the experience argument. How are you going to say the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, former national security adviser, former secretary of state was taken in?"

  • Obama raised $150 million in September!

  • Someone was indeed trying to manipulate the prediction market Intrade to boost McCain's numbers.

It's often written that the Republican ground game won them the White House in 2000 and 2004. The terminology similarity to football is not the only apt comparison. As in football, where the ground game tends to grind out yards, three, four at a time, the ground game in politics is hard work.

This was more vivid for me this weekend in the Vegas desert heat as I strolled from house to house in various Clark County neighborhoods. But while economists wonder why people vote because it's irrational (one vote is so unlikely to make a difference), volunteering feels more sensible. If each of us can reach ten, twenty, fifty people, and if we can encourage a few extra people to get out and vote, or convince a few undecideds to vote for Obama, then the multiplier effect lends our efforts feel numerically significance.

Andrew Sullivan, writing about the ground game, says Obama's "major enemy is complacency among the young."

That's fair given weak youth turnout historically, but my generation (X) and generation Y are not happy about the label, and I believe the pundits are severely underestimating the youth vote and impact. I can't remember an election in which more people my age and below have been so active, not only contributing money but flying all over the country to do phone banks, voter registration, canvassing, rallying, and everything in between. If the Republicans are counting on youth complacency this time around, they are going to be disappointed. We don't just want to win the election (what Obama dismisses as the 50-plus-1 governing model, referring to the idea that it's enough to win 50% of the country's support plus one additional vote), we want to make states that have always gone red go blue.

Did our efforts this weekend make a difference? Saturday was the first day of early voting in Nevada. After a rally this morning, a local Obama organizer shared some figures with us. ~15,000 early votes were cast on Saturday, and 64% of them went Obama.

16 days to go.