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Nevada Becomes Big Hope for Trump      08/27 10:07

   Nevada is the most diverse battleground state. On paper, it should be secure 
for Democrats. But there are enough people like Wheeler, still rattled by the 
recession and frustrated about other things, to make it one of Trump's best 
swing states.

   LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Russ Wheeler bears the financial scars of Nevada's lost 
decade, and he hopes Donald Trump can heal them.

   He worked for a Las Vegas roofing company when the real estate bust crushed 
the state's economy. He took two pay cuts before getting laid off. He had to 
commute into the California desert to find work after that.

   Wheeler considers himself one of the lucky ones. He was able to build up 
enough savings to retire, but even now his wife had her teaching hours reduced 
at a community college, dramatically reducing their household's income.

   "It'll be better with Trump because he'll bring the jobs back," Wheeler, 66, 
said as he stopped by a Republican Party office to scoop up some "Make America 
Great Again" yard signs and bumper stickers. "Everybody I know is a Trump 
supporter. He resonates well in Nevada."

   Nevada is the most diverse battleground state. On paper, it should be secure 
for Democrats. But there are enough people like Wheeler, still rattled by the 
recession and frustrated about other things, to make it one of Trump's best 
swing states.

   Democrats and Republicans agree that the state's competitiveness is not just 
a quirk of public polling, which has a spotty track record in Nevada, but is 
reflected in private surveys, the tightness of Nevada's races for the U.S. 
Senate and House, and the observations of seasoned political operatives.

   "Nevada's a picture of where the country's at," said Yvanna Cancela, 
political director of the Culinary Union, which represents nearly 60,000, 
mostly immigrant workers in casinos and hotels on the Strip. "It's increasingly 
diverse but the ideas of nationalism, open borders are very much at play here."

   The economy has recovered since the recession. The unemployment rate is down 
to 6.5 percent from 13.7 percent in 2010. While home prices have doubled since 
2012, they are well below their 2007 peak, and many Las Vegas residents live in 
subdivisions dotted with still-unoccupied houses.

   Nevada also has one of the lowest rates of college education in the country, 
with only 23 percent of its population having graduated college, giving Trump a 
reservoir of noncollege graduates that traditionally form his base. And the 
state's anti-establishment streak and rebellious culture may prove a good fit 
for the brash New York developer and reality show star.

   "In Nevada, we have this mindset of it's us versus the world," said Charles 
Munoz, Trump's state director. "It's the perfect storm of policy and messaging."

   The stakes in Nevada go beyond the state's six electoral votes in the 
presidential election. The race for retiring Democratic Sen. Harry Reid's seat 
pits his hand-picked successor, former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez 
Masto, against U.S. Rep. Joe Heck. Two of the state's four U.S. House seats are 
also in play.

   The state has become a presidential bellwether, voting for the winning 
candidate in every election since 1980. But its partisan divides have hardened 
as an influx of immigrants has helped fuel Las Vegas' boom and pull political 
power from the more rural and conservative northern part of the state.

   "When I first moved here in 1974, you could barely tell the Republicans and 
the Democrats apart," said Donna West, 59, who was working a phone bank for 
Clinton one recent night. "Now there are huge differences."

   Those differences provide Clinton with plenty of advantages in the state.

   Democrats have a formidable Nevada ground game, with 70,000 more registered 
Democrats than Republicans to date. It's a gap similar to that in 2012, when 
President Barack Obama won the state by 6 percentage points. Clinton has 
targeted the state for more than a year, announcing her immigration policy 
there in 2015 to appeal to Nevada's growing numbers of Latinos and 
Asian-Americans. The state is 51 percent white, though whites comprised 
two-thirds of the 2012 electorate, according to census data.

   "We know that we have the votes, we just have to turn them out," said 
Clinton state director Jorge Neri, who has a view of Trump's Las Vegas hotel 
from his office in the Clinton campaign's headquarters.

   That hotel, rising just off the Strip and surrounded by a sea of stucco, 
Asian markets and adult video stores, has been engaged in a battle with the 
Culinary Union, which organized more than 500 of its workers. The hotel refused 
to recognize the union until the National Labor Relations Board forced it to do 
so in April. Now the union complains the hotel won't negotiate a contract and 
has sent housekeepers and bartenders there to picket Trump rallies nationwide.

   Democrats think the union battle can convince Nevadans that Trump's populism 
is phony and he actually hurts workers. "For some people in the country it may 
seem like a distant thing, but this is in our backyard," Neri said.

   The Trump campaign sees the hotel as a net positive. "Trump has invested in 
this state while Hillary Clinton hasn't," Munoz said.

   On Friday, Trump met at the hotel with about two dozen Latino supporters, 
Republican leaders and campaign staffers, and asserted: "People don't know how 
well we're doing with the Hispanics, the Latinos. We're doing really well."


(KA)

 
 
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