News Column

Romney Faces Long Odds in Nevada

Nov. 5, 2012

Andy Goldberg, dpa

mitt romney

Look at Las Vegas closely enough and you can probably see most facets of the American dream.

The city's gleaming, gaudy gambling towers are testament to the success of brash excess. But just a block away, less-glamorous motels shelter locals and visitors unable to afford luxury service.

Travel a mile or two further out in any direction, and a Las Vegas of hardship, foreclosures and unemployment shows the flip side of the American way.

The hardship would normally spur support for US presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his Republican party, who argue that President Barack Obama's Democrats have mismanaged the economy.

The desert gambling mecca accounts for 67 per cent of voters in Nevada. The state has the nation's worst unemployment rate of 11.8 per cent and was one of the hardest hit by the housing bust.

Since 1982, only Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have won the desert state for the Democrats. Casino moguls Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn, who make a lot of their money in Las Vegas, are among the biggest donors to the Republican cause.

Romney should have been able to count on Nevada and its six votes in the electoral college, but things are not turning out that way.

Polls show Obama is likely to repeat his 2008 win in the state.

Even the fact that Romney's fellow Mormons make up almost 10 per cent of the population hasn't stopped him dropping almost 7 percentage points behind in the polls.

"Things have been improving the past few months," said realtor Frank Williams, who was showing a sprawling five-bedroom house on the desert edge to a handful of prospective buyers Sunday.

The people of Las Vegas have not lost all faith in the incumbent, he said.

"People came here with big dreams and a lot of them are disappointed. But they're still here. They believe things will pick up."

Since 1990, Nevada has led the United States in population growth, mainly through immigration, more than doubling to 2.7 million from 1.2 million. Most of the newcomers are Latinos, Asians and African-Americans, demographic groups which lean to the left.

Also, many are employed in the heavily unionized casino industry, all of which gives the Democrats a distinct advantage.

That has Nevada's premier political guru, Jon Ralston, putting Romney's chances of victory at 20 per cent. Or as he put it in his political report, "Possible. But unlikely."

Esteban Tomas, a hotel concierge, said he would be backing Obama. "I voted for him last time and I was disappointed. But the Republicans are too extreme and I think Obama deserves another chance," said Tomas, one of the prospective customers viewing Williams's house.

Latinos, their numbers swollen by decades of immigration, have their own reasons to be wary of the Republicans. Many are quick to mention Sharon Angle, who ran for the Tea Party - a right-wing grouping within the Republican Party - against top Democrat Harry Reid in 2010 on a strong anti-immigration platform.

"She turned Hispanics away from the Republican Party and it will be a long time before they ever go back," Jon Damore, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada told dpa.

The Democrats have been doing more than just welcoming disillusioned Republican supporters. Since 2008 they have been registering voters non-stop and now have almost 100,000 more in the state than the Republicans, according to Ralston.

On the casino floor however, not everyone is concerned with the intricacies of the presidential race. "I'm here to gamble, and since they don't take bets on the election I don't want to talk about it," said Carson Wright, a local auto salesman who was playing poker in the cavernous Venetian casino.

"But I can tell you one thing," he said. "Whoever wins, people will keep on gambling."

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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