Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- Voters may cringe, but a recount could be a factor in close election (11-04-2012)
- Unions expand voter turnout effort thanks to Citizens United (11-01-2012)
- Organizations step up final push to get Hispanics to polls (10-31-2012)
- At the grass roots: A look at 8 Las Vegas campaign volunteers (10-28-2012)
- More Sun political news
It’s a thought that goes through Obama volunteer Sam Goldman’s head when he picks up the phone to call a voter on his list.
The same thought is shared by Romney volunteer Aleta Simmons as she knocks on a voter’s door.
And the campaign advance man working around the clock to plan that one final Nevada rally hours before Election Day? He’s thinking the same thing.
This could be it. This could be the phone call, the doorstep chat, the closing argument speech that clinches the deal for my guy.
“I can’t sit still,” said Goldman, a bearded and bouncy Californian from the Bay Area who traveled over the border to help President Barack Obama’s effort in Goldman's neighboring battleground state. “If I didn’t do this, I’d just sit and read polling data all day.
“When it comes down to the wire, everyone you talk to you think, ‘This could be the one.’”
After months of registering voters, recruiting volunteers, knocking on doors, placing phone calls, cheering on debate performances, pushing voters to early voting places and chanting at rallies, the ground troops in the presidential campaigns have reached the home stretch.
Neither side appears to have hit the wall yet. Volunteers and staff on both campaigns—some running on pure adrenaline at this point—have dug in for a final frenzied drive to Election Day.
“Just do it! Just do it! Just vote,” said 28-year-old Aleta Simmons, a tattooed and pierced Sparks stay-at-home mom who has spent months volunteering for Republican Mitt Romney. “This is really, really important.”
Early voting is over, and it’s highly likely a majority of 2012 voters have cast their ballots already. Fifty percent of active registered voters have voted early or absentee.
But the numbers prove Nevada still is a presidential battleground state in play — even if Romney’s potential path to victory is slim.
Democrats have a 47,964-vote lead among early and absentee voters who had returned their ballot by Saturday.
In Democrat-rich Clark County, the party chalked up a formidable 70,000-vote lead in early ballots. And in Washoe County, Nevada’s critical swing county, Democrats kept the margin razor-thin.
But Republicans succeeded in driving up early-voting turnout in the rural counties, executing a ground-game strategy focused more on door-to-door persuasion than on mail-in ballots.
“We’ve always had a pathway to victory,” said Ted Kwong, a Republican National Committee spokesman based in Nevada. “It may not be the hugest pathway, but it’s there.”
In an effort to spin the early voting numbers, both parties are claiming to have turned out more “low-propensity” voters than the other and claim their inveterate voters will put them over the top on Election Day.
“The math is clear: Our opponent is losing among early voters in nearly every public poll in every battleground state, meaning that if these public polls are right, he would have to win 65 percent of the remaining votes in North Carolina, 59 percent in Iowa and Colorado, 58 percent in Nevada, 55 percent in Florida and Ohio, and 52 percent in Virginia and Wisconsin,” an Obama campaign strategist wrote in a Saturday memo. Traditionally, Republican voters exceed Democratic voters on Election Day. But with an unprecedented early-vote push, the GOP may have narrowed that Nov. 6 advantage.
Perhaps the largest looming question — which is nearly impossible to predict with accuracy — is how the nonpartisan voters are swinging. In most public polling, Romney has maintained a lead among voters who identify themselves as nonpartisans—usually between 7 percent and 9 percent.
A poll conducted by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, however, found voters who are registered nonpartisan support Obama 51 percent to 33 percent. Mellman was the only pollster to correctly gauge the 2010 U.S. Senate race in Nevada.
Romney would have to win nonpartisan voters by a significant margin to offset the Democrats’ registration lead.
Despite Democrats’ apparent advantage, neither side is taking their foot off the gas.
At Republican headquarters across Nevada, hundreds of volunteers — from local neighborhoods and neighboring states—poured into parking lots before fanning out to urge people to vote Tuesday.
Romney running mate Paul Ryan will rally supporters at the Reno airport on Monday before heading off to other swing states. And a steady stream of Republican surrogates worked both ends of the state, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
“If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me,” said Lewis Welch of South Jordan, Utah, who canvassed in Las Vegas on Saturday. “I want to show the Democrats that the unions won’t pull it through for 'em.”
“I really felt that I’d like to do something significant; otherwise, no matter what happened in the election, I would never forgive myself for not participating fully,” said Julia Joseph of Los Angeles. “I consider myself pretty smart, I know a lot about the issues, and hopefully I can talk to people and do a fair amount of convincing as well as tally data.”
Canvassing teams ran into a few snags, though.
One team shadowed by a Sun reporter discovered they couldn’t get through the front gates of all the gated neighborhoods in the valley. So after knocking on a few nongated doors, the team broke for lunch.
The Obama campaign also spent the final few days transitioning from early-vote turnout to Election Day efforts.
On Halloween night, dozens of volunteers packed the trendy offices of a Reno architecture firm to make calls. Tucked away in brightly colored nooks and crannies throughout the building, volunteers were handed cellphones and call sheets.
Campaign staff members kept careful tabs on how many calls were made and how many voters were reached.
The callers urged everyone they talked to not just to vote but to volunteer.
“You just have that feeling that you have to do something every minute,” said Irene Brouhard, an Obama volunteer from Sparks
Karoun Demirjian contributed to this story.