LAS VEGAS (AP) — It looked more like a campaign rave than a campaign rally as former President Bill Clinton joined two Democratic congressional candidates on a Nevada campus the night before early voting ended.
The crowd of about 1,000 jumped to the throbbing electronic dance music from famed DJ Steve Aoki. Strobe lights flashed on a huge “Stronger Together” Clinton campaign banner. Campaign staffers handed out glow sticks to the amped up audience.
“I want you to claim your future. I want you to finish this election strong. I want you to go see every friend you’ve got and don’t let anybody sit on the sidelines,” Clinton told the youthful audience.
Thursday’s over-the-top show, which was part of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s star-studded Love Trumps Hate concert series, is just one way the campaign has pulled out all the stops to energize younger and non-white Americans who are less likely to vote in battleground Nevada. While they’re focused on keeping Nevada’s six electoral votes out of Donald Trump’s hands in the tight race, they’ve also seamlessly coordinated with other Democratic campaigns and taking great pains to bring along House hopefuls Ruben Kihuen and Jacky Rosen, and Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto.
A deeply entrenched Democratic machine that includes a tireless union field operation has helped the party build a six-point voter registration advantage and a five-point statewide turnout lead in early voting. That bodes well for Clinton unless Republicans overwhelm on Election Day, but Democrats also need to stave off Nevadans’ tendency to split the ticket if they’re to sweep Cortez Masto into the Senate as Minority Leader Harry Reid’s successor.
Ticket-splitting in 2012 helped Republican Sen. Dean Heller keep his seat even when President Barack Obama won the state by seven percentage points, and that tendency was on display even at Thursday’s pro-Clinton concert.
Concert attendee Casey Seibert, a registered nonpartisan who describes herself as liberal and voted for Clinton, tipped for Republican Rep. Joe Heck in the Senate race.
“I think he’s done good for Nevada,” said the 21-year-old UNLV social work major. On Cortez Masto, Nevada’s former attorney general? “She’s good too. I was more familiar with Joe Heck.”
In contrast to his opponent’s dizzying schedule of get-out-the-vote events, Heck has been mostly out of sight in the final days of the campaign. The congressman has struggled with how to handle Trump, whom he supported, then un-endorsed after the release of a recording of the nominee bragging about forcing himself on women.
Republican insiders privately call the un-endorsement a mistake that could cost him GOP votes. They cringed further when Heck did a local TV interview this week reiterating that he doesn’t know who he’ll vote for but saying he thinks Trump would be a good commander in chief.
At a Thursday rally in Las Vegas featuring Donald Trump Jr., 69-year-old Sandi Steinbeck said she was disheartened when Heck pulled his Trump endorsement and prayed for him over the decision. But she still cast her ballot for Heck.
“I know sometimes people make a wrong decision too soon, too fast,” said Steinbeck, who’d affixed Trump stickers to the fur of the small dog she brought to the rally and blew kisses at Trump’s son as he rode away. “Deep in his heart, I know that he knows that Trump is for our future country.”
Republicans running in Las Vegas-area swing districts where Democratic get-out-the vote efforts have been most concentrated are reckoning with a Trump effect that appears ready to sink them. Rep. Cresent Hardy, who unendorsed Trump at the same time as Heck, faces Kihuen in a Democratic-leaning district where Democratic early voting turnout is far out ahead of Republican turnout.
Danny Tarkanian has broad name recognition as son of legendary UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and has stayed single-mindedly aboard the Trump train during his run for Congress. But the Republican is also looking flat-footed against the “firewall” of support that Democrats hoped to bank against him and Trump in early voting. He faces political newcomer, Democrat Jacky Rosen.
Republican get-out-the-vote efforts involve a big door-to-door blitz this weekend and laser-focusing on voters they’ve targeted over the past few months with their sophisticated databases. Trump himself is returning to Reno on Saturday in a last bid to energize Republican voters, buoyed by a new investigation into emails involving a top Clinton aide and some favorable new polls in Nevada.
Republicans hope the latest twist on Clinton and emails can sap enthusiasm and sully prospects for Cortez Masto, although she points out the development came halfway through Nevada early voting.
“Many people I’ve talked to have already made their decision,” she said on Monday. “This isn’t something that the people I’m talking to are talking about.”
That’s the feeling of Denise Luna, a 24-year-old political science major at UNLV who voted for Clinton and Cortez Masto. In the Senate race, she took her cues not from email news but from the endorsement of the biggest star hitting the trail for Clinton and Cortez Masto — President Barack Obama.
“I feel like all politicians are corrupt. There’s something with everyone,” she said about the emails.