Obama Plays Vegas
By Jeff Zeleny
LAS VEGAS – What happens in Vegas should not stay in Vegas.
That’s the word from Senator Barack Obama, who kicked off his Nevada campaign tonight at a rally of cooks and housekeepers, bartenders and bellmen. On hand were a smattering of the 60,000 people who comprise the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, the largest union in Nevada, which is supporting him in next Saturday’s caucuses.
“We’re gonna show America that what happens in Vegas – is not, no, no – it’s not gonna stay in Vegas any more!” Mr. Obama said, speaking in a crowded union hall a few blocks from the edge of the Las Vegas strip. “We’re going to start something in Vegas and we’re gonna send it across Nevada and across America and everybody’s going to know the power of a united people.”
Throughout Mr. Obama’s remarks, chants of “Si Se Puede! Si Se Puede! Si Se Puede!” rang from the audience. Mr. Obama joined along, too, in what has become a new mantra for his campaign. (It is essentially translated to the slogan he started on New Hampshire primary night, “Yes we can!”)
“In the face of impossible odds, people who love their country, people who are working together across racial lines, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, they can do anything. There is nothing that we cannot do!” Mr. Obama said, his sleeves rolled up, pumping his fist into the air. “That’s your story, the story of local 226. That’s how dishwashers and hotel workers, cooks and cleaning staff realized their dream in this desert town. That’s how you stood up for a bottom line that didn’t just include profits for the few, but prosperity for the many.”
The Nevada caucuses are the latest stop in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. Winning the endorsement of the culinary union was seen as a coup for Mr. Obama. Yet it remains an open question whether all of the members will turn out next week to caucus for Mr. Obama.
While Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton are aggressively battling to win here, neither campaign is investing as much time or energy as Iowa or New Hampshire. After an appearance at the union hall, Mr. Obama packed a gymnasium at Del Sol High School, with hundreds of people still waiting outside in the crisp desert air, trying to squeeze in.
After those two stops, Mr. Obama was scheduled to fly back to Chicago. So what’s on his agenda on Saturday? A vacation day.
Update 10:44 p.m : Before he addressed his town hall meeting, Mr. Obama stood on a picnic table in a breezeway outside the school, speaking to a crowd of more than 1,000 who could not get in the gymnasium. He apologized that they could not get in to see him, but he assured them he would be back in Nevada.
“We are going to be doing town hall meetings, we’re going to give people a chance to ask questions,” he said. “If you could not get in today, I don’t want you to think that you are not precious to this campaign.”
(That, of course, was a departure from New Hampshire. While he drew similar crowds and always took time to briefly address those who could not make it inside, he did not dwell upon how important people were, to specifically ask for their support or take questions from his audiences. And, of course, he came in second.)
Related: Teachers Sue to Block Hotel Workers’ Union Vote in Nevada Caucus