Union workers on leave from jobs in Los Angeles and San Francisco showed up ready for duty at a messy office near the Reno airport, and started rhythmically clapping and chanting, "Si, se puede."
"Wake up, America," a tattooed union man bellowed, on the off chance they weren't yet awake.
Across town, in a weathered office mall next to the Atlantis casino, Bill Baker, a former East Bay Republican congressman, greeted 100 travelers who arrived on charter buses from the Bay Area and Sacramento.
"This is what's going to win the election," Baker told them.
Bruce Springsteen and Bill Clinton aside, President Barack Obama's and Gov. Mitt Romney's true surrogates are Carol Dean, Maxine Rodowicz, Maria Cardenas and Jared Neil, partisans at the front lines of the campaign.
I tagged along as they slipped into sensible shoes and knocked on doors in Reno and Sparks last weekend. The goal was simple, though the work wasn't. Republicans urged Republicans to vote. Democrats urged Democrats to vote. Both sides tried to entice independents. In this good-against-evil campaign, they didn't change many minds.
The national parties and the candidates' organizations recruit supporters to knock on doors in the swing states. In Nevada, however, Obama has a separate weapon, Unite-HERE, the union that represents hotel, restaurant and casino workers.
Jack Gribbon, the union's California political director, is responsible for the culinary workers' effort in Northern Nevada. He is sending paid volunteers to 38,000 doors on swing streets in the swing county of Washoe in the swing state of Nevada.
Ellen Woods, a gray-haired union member from San Francisco, rolled up a pant leg last Sunday and showed Gribbon the bruise left by a dog that bit her the day before. Gribbon asked if the mutt drew blood, if she needed to see a doctor, and, importantly: "Did you get the vote?"
Washoe County has 91,322 registered Republicans, 89,701 Democrats, and 41,830 voters who state no party preference. Obama will win Las Vegas. Romney will win rural Nevada. That leaves Washoe County, the battleground.
Like his Republican counterparts, Gribbon does the math. Assume Romney wins the red and pink states, for 191 electoral votes. Next, assume Romney wins the swing states of Iowa, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina. He'd have 268 electoral votes, two short of the 270 needed to capture the presidency.
Assume, now, that Obama wins solid blue and light blue states, for a total of 237 electoral votes. Next, assume he wins Colorado, with its large Latino population, and Ohio, where auto workers have jobs because Obama bailed out the industry. He'd have 264.
That leaves Nevada and its six electoral votes. To motivate the troops, Gribbon scrawled the equation in blue marker pen on white butcher paper at the front of the room.
With the morning chant over, Cardenas and Neil got their marching orders and drove to the north end of Reno, armed with the addresses and names of voters to contact.
Neil, 26, moved to San Francisco from Maine a few years ago, and quit his job at a San Francisco hotel to work on the campaign. He said his father disowned him because he is gay.
"It's ridiculous for anyone who is gay to be for Romney," Neil said.
Cardenas, 50, works at Dodger Stadium during baseball season, lives in Los Angeles, and is the mother of two daughters and a son.
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