Kerry sets sights on Nevada |

Kerry sets sights on Nevada

Los Angeles Times

LAS VEGAS – When John Kerry arrives in Reno today for his sixth visit to Nevada this year, he will underscore a dramatic shift in the geography of the race for the White House.

Kerry, in a virtually unprecedented move for a Democrat, is relying more on the West than the South in his plan to reach the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

Once the party of the “Solid South,” Democrats this year are not actively contesting any state in the region except Florida in the presidential campaign. Instead, Kerry has shifted his attention west, mounting major efforts in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and, at one point, Arizona.

“In the 1980s and the 1990s, the Holy Grail was to make the Democratic Party competitive in the South again,” said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network, a political action committee that supports centrist party officials. “Now the Southwest is a vital, new part of the Democratic strategy.”

This shift may reflect equal parts opportunity and weakness.

Democrats see opportunity across the Southwest in its growing Hispanic population and signs that the region’s moderate suburbanites may be warming to the party’s stances on social issues.

But Republicans see Kerry’s emphasis on the Southwest – particularly the GOP-leaning states of Colorado and Arizona – as a measure of his limited options for reaching 270 electoral votes while writing off virtually every Southern state.