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August 30, 2015

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What happened to Obama in Vegas

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Steve Marcus

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman greets President Barack Obama at McCarran International Airport on Monday, Oct. 24, 2011.

Obama arrives in Las Vegas

Air Force One comes in for a landing at McCarran International Airport Monday Oct. 24, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Obama Speaks on Jobs and Housing

President Barack Obama walks with, from left, Jose Bonilla, Lissette Bonilla and their children Margarita Bonilla, Franco Bonilla and Mario Bonilla before Obama spoke about the American Jobs Act on Oct. 24, 2011, in Las Vegas. Obama also announced a housing initiative to help homeowners with federally guaranteed mortgages refinance their homes. Launch slideshow »

I would love to know what went through President Barack Obama’s mind as he came to the door of Air Force One on Monday morning and looked down at the McCarran International Airport tarmac.

Standing below him was not the usual receiving line of Democratic politicians but a solitary elected official — and one who had abandoned the Democratic Party. As if to add insult to absence, the lone woman’s husband had mercilessly excoriated the president for a couple of years, demanding an apology for remarks he had made about Las Vegas and snubbing him on previous trips.

Somehow, Obama kept his smile as he walked down from the plane and greeted Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who along with her husband, former Mayor Oscar Goodman, had made a big show of switching from Democrat to independent when His Honor was making a big show about pretending to think about running for governor last year. Goodman II, clutching her cellphone in one hand, bent the president’s ear for several minutes — there was no one else for him to talk to — handing the commander in chief a “good luck” chip and asking him to say nice things about Las Vegas.

How the mighty have fallen.

This is what it has come to for the man who created a Nevada wave in 2008, winning the state by 12 percentage points, pulling Democrats up and down the ticket to victory and auguring Harry Reid’s stunning re-election two years later. Obama previously had been greeted by Democrats high and low at the airport, many of them only too eager to shake hands with the president and perhaps ride in the motorcade. Now, the most powerful man in the world is treated like he is arriving on a quarantined plane, a political leper shunned by those who once embraced him — nay, by those he gave political life to just a few years ago.

Obama arrived in a devastated state to present a housing plan that probably won’t help many of those underwater on their homes in the worst economy in the country, only to be greeted by a mayor whose husband he surely despises and who hectored him (once again) about his much-overblown “don’t come to Vegas” remarks.

Other than that, Mr. President, how was the trip?

(Well, there was the money he raised at the Bellagio, the house that Steve Wynn built. You know, Mr. Wynn, don’t you, Mr. President? He’s the fellow all over Fox News and virally on the Internet saying you have been more destructive to business in America than that comet was to the dinosaurs way back when.)

Obama’s Nevada problem is a microcosm of his national problem. Here’s a place that was full of hope for change in 2009 but now is mired in hopelessness, and not much has changed for a couple of years. The president who won here by 12 is now underwater almost as much as some of those mortgages he wants to fix — Public Opinion Strategies found his job approval at 45/52 a year ago and 42/55 a few weeks ago.

Hence, the lack of smiles and handshakes on the tarmac. Oh, I’m sure Obama arrived at the Bellagio to be greeted by Democratic elected officials brimming with excuses. The traffic was a nightmare. The security folks told us we had to be at the Bellagio early. I didn’t know what time the plane landed.

Of course, running away from the president — or not having a photo taken with him in the next year — is a fool’s, or perhaps coward’s, errand for these Democrats. They will still get Velcroed to Obama if his numbers remain low — whether they are literally with him or photoshopped.

And the Republicans, here and nationally, will continue to remind people that the president once told people not to come to Vegas, thereby destroying the economy — even though that is a canard turned into hyperbole. In 2009, the president said companies that received federal bailouts “can’t go take that trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.”

Totally reasonable statement, but latched onto by then-Mayor Publicity-At-Any-Cost and others. And, the president turned tone-deaf a year later and essentially doubled down on the remarks by telling people not to “blow a bunch of cash” here.

Once, Mr. President, despite what Jacqueline Susann said, is enough.

By the way, even though Democrats were scarce Monday, the other Goodman actually was on hand to welcome the president, just not in the flesh. Oscar Goodman made an appearance in a National Republican Senatorial Committee video, a clip of him from a couple of years back demanding the president apologize for remarks.

What’s said about Vegas is remembered in Vegas, even if it is, as another president might have put it, misremembered.

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