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Live blog: President Obama looks to boost Democrats in Las Vegas speech

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Sen. Harry Reid introduces President Barack Obama for a speech outside Orr Middle School at a “Moving America Forward” rally Friday, October 22, 2010.

Updated Friday, Oct. 22, 2010 | 7:36 p.m.

Barack Obama Rope Line

President Barack Obama's speech outside Orr Middle School at a Launch slideshow »

Obama Speaks in Vegas

President Barack Obama delivers a speech outside Orr Middle School at a Launch slideshow »

Obama Visits Las Vegas

President Barack Obama salutes after landing at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas Friday, October 22, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Posted at 7:35 p.m.

Campaigning is the president’s strong suit. Taking to the stage in his shirtsleeves, he was a sharp contrast to the more soft-spoken Reid, who came before.

The faulty PA system did not appear to hinder him. So he used that to cast the spotlight back on the Senate majority leader.

“You know, Harry’s not the flashiest guy, let’s face it,” Obama began. “Harry kind of speaks in a very soft voice. He doesn’t move real quick. He doesn’t get up and make big...speeches. But Harry Reid does the right thing.”

The president’s appearance was clearly to promote the candidates, but it had a dual focus.

When the crowd began to cheer “O-ba-ma,” he corrected them, starting the cheer, “Harry, Harry, Harry,” and reminding them that “I need partners like Harry, and I need partners like Dina Titus, and I need partners like Shelley Berkley. But it all depends on you.”

But let’s face it, the president rallies a crowd best when he lets the spotlight focus on him. It didn’t take long for Obama to return to his roots and offer the crowd what they wanted to hear: “Yes we can.”

Then he repeated in Spanish, “Si se puede,” which caused a gleeful reaction from at least one Latina grandmother and a little girl sitting on her father’s shoulders waving U.S. and Mexican flags.

But Obama has tried to mature his message for these rallies and the times. It’s not just “yes we can” anymore. There’s also the new slogan: “Because of what you did.”

Obama appealed to the crowd to resuscitate the spirit of 2008 by telling them how far they’d come and by telling them a colorful story.

“Imagine that the economy is car,” he started, “and the Republicans drove this car into the ditch.”

The car analogy become a favorite of Democrats during this election cycle since someone realized that the gearshift lent them a perfect slogan: D is for going forward, R is for reverse.

Obama spun the story out a little longer than usual in Vegas, though. “They left the car down in the ditch. So me and Harry and Dina and Shelley, we put on our boots and we went down into the ditch...and we started pushing.”

“And there, up on the hill, there were the Republicans, sipping on a Slurpee. So we said, ‘Why don’t you come down and help,’ and they said, ‘Naw,’ and kicked some dirt down into he ditch.”

The crowd cheered and laughed at his ultimate punch line: “Republicans want the keys back...I’m sorry, you can’t have the keys back because you don’t know how to drive.”

He closed with a far more pragmatic appeal. “They’re basically betting on all of you having amnesia...so let me tell you, Las Vegas, you have not forgotten,” he said. “If all of you go and vote, all of you go knock on doors...we won’t just elect Harry Reid, but we will restore the American dream, the Vegas dream, the Nevada dream, for generations to come.”

Posted at 6:23 p.m.

And Harry Reid's music? Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising."

The crowd rose to its feet to greet Reid with shouts and cheers of "Harry, Harry" and other chants that drowned out the senator's naturally low speaking voice, which was hardly helped by a PA system that seemed to be underperforming for much of the rally, as he introduced himself.

Reid focused on one issue in his remarks.

"There's three important issues on my mind and on your mind: jobs, jobs and jobs," he said. "The single most important job of my job is to create jobs."

He listed several job-creating projects -- most based on renewable energy -- that have been announced in the past few weeks on his campaign, including a $1 billion highway project, a state-crossing energy transmission line and a program to provide free solar panels to community centers, schools and places of worship.

"It's just the opposite of my opponent's jobs program, which is to shift jobs overseas," Reid said.

Reid delivered several sharp rebukes of his opponent, Sharron Angle, ran through his policy platforms and listed several of his supporters who have crossed party lines, but his speech didn't earn many outbursts of cheers -- mostly because of the poor sound projection.

People couldn't hear everything and after a few minutes, they gave up craning their necks to listen.

So instead, many started cheering "Harry, Harry" again.

And then Reid introduced President Obama.

Posted at 6:09 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has taken the stage.

Posted at 5:54 p.m. (Updated at 5:59 p.m.)

President Obama has arrived at Orr Middle School Park. The music that played for the presidential motorcade's arrival was Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up."

Posted at 5:49 p.m.

The crowd got more riled up for Dina Titus, who gave several shout-outs to towns in her district before launching into a speech predicated on turning Republican slogans inside out.

"We are not going to let them take our country back from the people who have struggled and worked and built this country into what it is today," she said. "Moving forward, making progress...or what they call a new direction, which is just a few turns back to the old ways that got us into this mess."

"I don't think the Democrats are wimps, I don't think we need to man up," she added, recalling Sharron Angle's now famous quip from her debate with Harry Reid.

Next up was Shelley Berkley, who appealed to the crowd to vote by hearkening to the recent voter suppression scandal -- and a little bit of her own history.

"It was November of 1972, I was voting for the first time, I voted right here at Orr Junior High School. I remember the thrill and the pride I had standing in that line waiting to cast my ballot," she said. "How dare they try to take this right away from any one of us. We can't be fooled, not this time."

Berkley isn't in a a tough re-election contest herself, so she used the rest of her time to appeal to the constituencies voting on the issues that have come to be front-and-center in Senator Harry Reid's face-off with Sharron Angle.

"We don't call those among us to have lost their jobs, through no fault of their own, and are needing unemployment needs to put food on their childrens' table, spoiled," she said.

"We are proud to protect Social Security...We believe in taking care of our veterans."

Posted at 5:30 p.m. (Updated at 6:06 p.m.)

Click to enlarge photo

Air Force One lands at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas Friday, October 22, 2010.

Air Force One has landed at McCarran International Airport.

As Obama exited, he was greeted by about 15 supporters, including Elaine Wynn, at the bottom of the plane's steps. He chatted, gave hugs and shook hands for a few minutes before taking a brief jog across the runway to greet about two dozen people identified by an airport spokesman as friends and family of Secret Service agents.

He then gave a big wave, hopped in a waiting limousine and departed McCarran escorted by a motorcade of 13 vehicles.

The president was at McCarran for about 15 minutes.

Posted at 5:28 p.m.

The rain clouds that have been hanging over Southern Nevada parted this afternoon, a merciful reprieve for the several thousand supporters packed into the barricades at Orr Middle School Park for what for many is a once-in-a-lifetime event -- hearing a sitting president speak.

Obama's comments aren't due until a little after 6 p.m., but the Democrats have a full roster preceding him, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus and gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid -- for whom public appearances on the same stage with his dad have been a rarity this election cycle.

Rory Reid opened up the program with soft-spoken, hard words for Republicans.

"They scream, they yell, their faces are red, their voices are shrill, and when they get tired of that, they start blaming you," he said. "This election is about what to do with our anger. We need to convert that anger into energy."

Posted at 4:49 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Supporters stream towards the stands before President Barack Obama's speech outside Orr Middle School at a "Moving America Forward" rally Friday, October 22, 2010.

Thousands of people were waiting outside a Las Vegas middle school for President Barack Obama to arrive in Las Vegas for an early evening speech.

Just before the 4:30 p.m. rally, people crowded into bleachers next to a large American flag under cut-outs of the words, "Moving America Forward," the name of Obama's nationwide tour to re-energize Democrats. Hip-hop and Top 40 music played on loud speakers.

People had started lining up before lunchtime, with hundreds in line by 1:30 p.m. A few protesters stood on corners near the school with signs criticizing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Obama is scheduled to arrive at McCarran International Airport at about 5:30 p.m. He will travel about four miles to speak to the crowd at Orr Middle School, 1562 E. Katie Ave.

Doors opened at 3:30 p.m. for the free event. Obama will take the stage following several other Democrats on the ballot, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid and Rep. Dina Titus.

Democrats hope Obama can help bridge the perceived enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats.

Democrats have struggled with waning support from a frustrated and unengaged base. Compounding their troubles is the fact that midterm elections are typically difficult for the party in power, the economy is stagnant and people are dissatisfied with what they see as a lack of progress in Congress on key issues such as the deficit and immigration.

Before Las Vegas, Obama's campaign tour stopped this morning in Los Angeles for a rally, where he urged Democrats to vote on Nov. 2 despite any disappointment they feel over the sluggish economy.

Besides the rally at the University of Southern California, Obama reached out to Latino voters with an interview on a popular Spanish-language radio show. He also spoke at a fundraiser for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

During his four days on the road, the president is reminding audiences of the passion they felt when they helped elect him in 2008, and urging them to keep the feeling alive.

Sun reporters Delen Goldberg and Dylan Scott contributed to this report.

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