(Las Vegas CBS KXNT) It’s a tale of two elections. For Democrats, the story has a rueful punchline, but a roomful of African American Obama supporters in a Las Vegas church laugh outloud, as Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker relates it.
First, Booker’s trip to the polling place on election day of 2008, when black voter turnout was huge for Barack Obama. In Newark, he says, they keep it real. They don’t treat the mayor as if he were anything special.
“I walked up to this line wrapped around the building,” Booker says. “The first thing the woman at the end of the line looks at me and says, ‘don’t you think you’re cutting in this line!'”
A year later, Booker said, when the state of New Jersey held the election that put cantankerous Republican Chris Christie in the governor’s office, it was a different story. The poll workers looked lonely.
“We are a blue state, OK? We are a state with 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans,” Booker is working up to a point about Nevada, a blue state with a red history. “I go to vote on that day, there is no line.”
Indeed, Christie won by 68,000 votes against incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine because of sluggish turnout from urban Democratic base.
“When people in Newark complain to me… I remind them, don’t you dare blame the governor,” Booker is getting scattered assent from around the room.
“You can’t complain if you don’t vote, and we didn’t vote.”
Booker’s come to Nevada to inspire turnout in a state where registration also favors Democrats. In this particular room, he’s preaching to the choir. The group is called African Americans for Obama. County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly is there, State Assemblywoman Dina Neal is there. State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horford stops by. Also in the audience are representatives of Congresswoman Shelley Berkley and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
In an interview ahead of his speech, Booker told KXNT he feels at home in Las Vegas because he has family here. He gets regular reports on Las Vegas during phone calls with two aunts and his grandparents.
“I heard about that from my grandmother before I heard it from you,” he says, when KXNT brings up the president’s don’t-blow-a-bunch-of-cash-in-vegas comment, which is now being used in anti-Obama campaign ads.
“What’s going to grow the country and this economy is not sound bytes taken from one-time remarks now years ago,” Booker responds. “What’s gonna grow this economy is tax cuts for the middle class here in Vegas.”
He returns to the subject of turnout. Nevada Democrats should also be working hard on the congressional races, because, he says, moderate Republicans are abandoning Washington.
“You have Olympia Snowe, who headed for the hills, you have Dick Luger, who got bought, Simpson of Simpson Bowles, who got beat on the right.” Booker reels off the names.
“So what’s happened to our nation is, you have a president who was elected, and you have these people on the right who are saying we’re gonna do everything we can, not to help him balance the budget, not to help him stop the hemorhaging of jobs, but our main focus is to stop him from being reelected.”
It’s incumbent upon Nevadans, he says, to interrupt the momentum of the “intractable right-right-right wing.”
Booker gathered up quickly to head for the airport after his half-hour speech. He’s been on tour speaking at African American churches in a number of states, he told KXNT.