Bush, Kerry keep spotlight on battleground of Nevada | NevadaAppeal.com

Bush, Kerry keep spotlight on battleground of Nevada

MARTIN GRIFFITH

RENO – President Bush, Sen. John Kerry and their surrogates will be tripping over themselves this week as they try to pick up swing votes in the battleground state of Nevada.

Bush plans to attend rallies Thursday in Reno and Las Vegas, the White House announced. He already has visited Reno once and Las Vegas twice this year.

Kerry is scheduled to address an AARP convention the same day in Las Vegas, his fifth stop there this year, spokesman Sean Smith said.

Independent candidate Ralph Nader also plans to get in the act by speaking Wednesday at UNLV, his second campaign stop in Las Vegas this year.

National polls show the presidential race tightening to a dead heat, forcing both Bush and Kerry to focus on 20 states in which neither holds an advantage. Recent polls of Nevada voters show the race about even for the state’s five electoral votes.

In 2000, Bush narrowly carried the state, 49.5 percent to 46 percent. Bush visited Nevada once that year; Al Gore twice.

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“There’s no doubt there’s never been this attention shown to Nevada by the presidential candidates in its 140-year history,” State Archivist Guy Rocha said. “They’re sending in family, friends, all the big guns and big names.”

The Bush campaign plans to send retired Gen. Tommy Franks to Reno and Las Vegas today, presidential nephew George P. Bush to Las Vegas on Tuesday and first lady Laura Bush to Lake Tahoe on Thursday.

It will be Mrs. Bush’s third trip to Nevada in two weeks and fifth of the year. Vice President Dick Cheney has made six visits to Nevada this year.

The president’s two upcoming Nevada rallies reflect the campaign’s determination to carry the state on Nov. 2, Bush spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said.

“Nevada is a battleground state, a state that we expect will be closely contested,” Schmitt said. “President Bush looks forward to bringing his optimistic agenda directly to voters in Las Vegas and Reno.”

On Saturday, the Kerry campaign sent Kerry stepson Andre Heinz to Reno, and Kerry’s brother, Cam, and former President Franklin Roosevelt’s granddaughter, Anne Roosevelt, to Las Vegas.

Kerry’s daughter, Alex, plans to visit Las Vegas today, while Bush-bashing film director Michael Moore and his Slacker Uprising Tour are set for Wednesday in Reno.

Vice presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, have visited Nevada once each.

“Nevada is ground zero in the presidential election,” Smith said. “Both sides know that the race is a dead heat and are doing everything they can to gain an extra advantage.”

Kerry also plans to make his first visit to Reno sometime before the election, Smith said.

Reno has a Republican voter registration edge; Democrats hold the lead in Las Vegas. Statewide, registration is about evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans.

“We certainly don’t concede northern Nevada to Bush-Cheney,” Smith said. “There’s a reason they’re sending surrogates up there. The race is tight up there.”