Elections

In Nevada, Clinton gets out the vote, Trump gets out the hope

People wait in line for early voting Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Las Vegas.
People wait in line for early voting Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Las Vegas. AP

Jonathan Love runs food orders and buses tables in a casino hotel near the Strip.

Lately, he’s been knocking on lots of doors, too.

Love, 45, is among a legion of union members who have been hitting the pavement in this presidential battleground state for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

With less than two weeks remaining in the contest, Nevada remains a key swing state. The mood for political change can be felt here, as it can throughout parts of the country, and Republican nominee Donald Trump has been its avatar. But Clinton has been almost consistently leading the polls since mid-October, after months of trading momentum with her opponent.

She can thank the more than 100 members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 who have taken leaves to don red T-shirts with the words “Defeat Trump” emblazoned in white inside a black square and gone door-to-door for the Democratic ticket.

“She supports our union. I trust her judgment,” Love said. “So I’m out knocking on doors.”

Local 226 has already engaged in one battle with Trump – which it eventually won – over a collective bargaining agreement with union workers at his Trump International Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

But the members going door-to-door are not all from Nevada. Next door in California, which is devoid of presidential drama because it’s a safe bet that Clinton will carry the state, the California Federation of Labor has already met its goal of sending 1,000 union volunteers to help get out the vote in the Silver State. Now it hopes to reach 2,000.

“That’s what labor does,” said Steve Smith, a labor federation spokesman. “They’re going out twice a day to knock on doors and have a real discussion with voters about the importance of the election and stakes for working people.”

Nevada’s early voting, which began last weekend, is seen as a barometer of the political mood. After nearly three days of voters casting early ballots, local prognosticators see the possibility of a blue wave. Clinton had a 13-point lead across the state, 47-34 percent.

Only once since 1908 has Nevada sided with the loser of the presidential race. That was Gerald Ford in 1976. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all won the state twice.

“I think the Clinton campaign is far more organized,” said Tom Letizia, a Las Vegas Republican political and public relations consultant who has managed numerous local campaigns. “Their numbers have gone through the roof in early voting.”

Republicans, he said, “are going to get their clock cleaned . . . based on what I’m seeing.”

Trump’s caustic comments about women, immigrants and Mexicans haven’t helped. Latinos represent nearly 30 percent of the state’s residents, and 300,000 have been registered to vote.

“There has been a massive effort in the Hispanic community,” said Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, whose district includes Las Vegas.

That could help Clinton carry the state by at least 5 percentage points, “and if she does that, she’ll pull the congressional seats with her,” Titus said, referring to the three of the state’s four seats in the House of Representatives that are held by Republicans.

For Clinton, a win in Nevada could also mean helping her party hold the Senate seat being vacated by Harry Reid, who is retiring. That contest has been tight.

A Republican super PAC intends to spend more than $8 million between now and Election Day on the Senate race. But if Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general, defeats Republican Rep. Joe Heck for the seat, her party has a good chance of taking control of the chamber.

“We had an awful election cycle in 2014,” said Yvanna Cancela, political director of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, the largest and most powerful union in the state. “There is an opportunity for us win back so much. . . . We could flip (Republican seats) all the way down to the state Legislature.”

All the players involved in the Democratic effort in Nevada to elect Clinton appear to be working from the same script: the Clinton campaign, labor, Latino groups, the state party and Reid’s political machine.

The Republicans, not so much.

Heck and Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy stirred tensions and some resentment when they withdrew their endorsements of Trump earlier this month following the airing of the nominee’s lewd remarks about women from around the time of his appearance on “Hollywood Access” in 2005.

The local Republican Party still supports Trump.

“We made the decision for unity purposes that we support Trump,” said T.K. Crabb, political director of the Clark County Republican Party. “It’s going to be best for us to support Heck and Hardy even though we’re not happy with what they did.”

As for trying to keep up with their opponents’ efforts on the ground, all those little things that can make or break a campaign – the leafleting, the door-knocking, the rides to the polls – “We’re busting our butts,” Crabb said.

But here’s what Republicans have been up against: The culinary union has worked with local businesses around the Strip to run buses during their workers’ lunch breaks so they can get to early voting sites and not have to choose between eating or voting.

“It’s awesome to see shift workers eating lunch on their way to vote,” said Bethany Khan, a spokeswoman for Local 226. “Many of them are first-time voters.”

All that gives Democrats hope. But the political dissatisfaction and anger that have been a hallmark of this election season are present, as well. There are avid Trump supporters, and others who are uneasy about him but who will never pull the lever for Clinton.

At a farmers’ market in nearby Henderson, Nevada, Dick and Jane Mashburn, a retired couple from Las Vegas, had just purchased some fresh bread. They intend to vote for Trump.

“I knew I wanted something different and I knew that Hillary would be just more of the same, and I’ve been just distraught over last eight years,” said Jane Mashburn, 68.

“You know that game show where you pick one of three doors?” said Dick Mashburn, 77. “ I would rather pick the mystery door than the door I’m sure of. We’re just that desperate for change.”

David Goldstein: 202-383-6105, @GoldsteinDavidJ

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