LAS VEGAS — For Hillary Rodham Clinton, what happens in Las Vegas will reverberate across the nation, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
That’s because a key path for Clinton to the White House goes through Nevada, an early caucus state for the Democratic primary and a critical swing state for the general election.
The former secretary of state, U.S. senator from New York and first lady knows that winning over voters in this demographically and geographically diverse state will bode well for her chances in 49 others.
Immediately after she announced her intent to run, Hillary Clinton’s campaign made clear Nevada was an election priority for her team.
Hillary for Nevada already was a Twitter handle and Facebook page, and Nevada was one of five states on a drop-down menu linking to those pages on her campaign website. She had also already hired an experienced team on the ground in Las Vegas.
The focus for Team Clinton on Nevada goes all the way to the top. Her nationwide campaign manager, Robby Mook, ran Clinton’s 2008 campaign in Nevada and helped Clinton win the state’s Democratic caucus that year.
In her days-old campaign to become president, Clinton is trying to convince Americans she’s a regular person.
In Nevada, she will work hard to get that message across to Latino and Asian-American voters.
Those voters, concentrated in Clark County, tend to vote in higher numbers during presidential years than in midterms. They’re key to tipping the state in Democrats’ favor, and Clinton’s task is to excite them enough to get out and vote.
To do that, she’s assembled an experienced campaign team in Nevada that has deep connections in both immigrant communities in the state.
Emmy Ruiz was the first organizer hired in Nevada for Clinton’s 2008 campaign and is now Clinton’s 2016 Nevada director. She’ll be joined by Jorge Neri, who along with Ruiz helped President Barack Obama win Nevada in 2012. Tim Hogan, communications director under former Rep. Steven Horsford of North Las Vegas, rounds out the team.
“I’ve knocked on countless doors in every part of the state on behalf of Hillary,” Ruiz said in an email to supporters Tuesday.
Clinton plans to spend time in the state having intimate, sit-down conversations with a diverse swath of voters. She has no official dates to visit Nevada, but she’s expected to visit during the primary. (Aides and Washington Democrats note that Clinton is far from a lock to win the Democratic primary: She could be facing such competitors as former Sen. Jim Webb from Virginia and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who are both considering a run.)
Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have a good repertoire with Hispanics, who in 2014 made up about 16 percent of voters in Nevada, according to Pew Research Center. In 2008, Clinton beat Obama 2 to 1 among Hispanics, notes BuzzFeed’s Adrian Carrasquillo, and a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll shows her ahead of Spanish-speaking Republican candidate Jeb Bush almost 3-1.
“She speaks to the needs of our community very well,” said Las Vegas Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, a son of El Salvadoran immigrants.
The godfather of modern-day Nevada Democrats’ well-organized party is retiring. But before Harry Reid leaves the Senate in January 2017, he wants to ensure there’s a Democratic president being inaugurated.
“The next president of the United States is going to be Hillary Clinton,” Reid told KNPR in March.
Reid hasn’t endorsed Clinton. But he is expected to fundraise for the Democratic nominee while urging the Nevada Democratic machine to continue the party’s voter registration lead over Republicans.
Rep. Dina Titus, a Las Vegas Democrat and longtime Hillary Clinton supporter, is definitely lending her weight to help Clinton win the state. Her district encompasses many of the immigrant voters Clinton is banking on to get to the polls, and she’s already on regular calls with Clinton’s Nevada team to strategize Clinton’s presentation in the state.
“It’s not about her, it’s about the people she wants to help,” Titus said. “The more she talks about that, the more she’s out there shaking hands and looking people in the eye, talking about earning their votes, the better.”
Clinton’s momentum in a presidential race could also propel Democrats to victory in the open Senate seat and give the party a shot at unseating two of Nevada’s three Republican members of Congress.
There’s always a but in politics. For Nevada Democrats, it’s that the party is coming off a bruising 2014 midterm election where Republicans swept every constitutional office in the state and won a surprise congressional seat.
National Republicans credit those wins to a ground game they put in place in 2014 and plan to rev up in 2016. They’re narrowing their voter registration gap among Democrats.
The state’s influence goes to the highest levels of Republican politics: Nevada Republican politico Chris Carr is now the 2016 political director for the Republican National Committee.
All this is to say Nevada matters in presidential politics. Clinton’s efforts to win the state in 2016 are the latest example of what’s going to be a high-profile 19 months for the state.