Las Vegas Sun

September 23, 2021

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Early supporters of Obama stand to gain

Political favor could be the long-lasting thank you

With Illinois Sen. Barack Obama having sewn up the Democratic nomination, we can call the winners and losers in Nevada. It seems like forever ago, but Nevada was an early state, and early support for Obama or New York Sen. Hillary Clinton won’t be soon forgotten.


• Sen. Steven Horsford: At a recent Las Vegas event, Obama gave a shout-out to the newly elected state Senate minority leader, referring to him only as “Horsford.” The jocularity suggested a familiarity, and there’s little doubt that his hard work during (and since) the caucus has placed Horsford in some good company: the new generation of young and talented black politicians in Obama’s mold and in his favor, including Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker.

Obama and Patrick are clients of the political consultant of the moment, David Axelrod, and there’s no doubt Axe, Obama’s chief strategist, will give advice to Horsford when it’s sought.

If and when Horsford runs for Congress or anything else, he’ll have no problem getting his calls to Obama returned. If Obama gets elected, there’s always the possibility of a job in the White House political shop. Even if Obama isn’t president, he’d be a nice fundraiser headliner.

Just as valuable, however, Horsford got a crash course in field operations from the Obama campaign. As the caucus neared, Horsford told me he’d never seen anything like it. (To be fair, the Clinton operation was at least as good, and, judging by Clinton’s caucus victory, even better.)

• Rep. Sheila Leslie: The Reno liberal was also an early endorser, and Obama won more support in Leslie’s precincts than anywhere else in the state. Reno is slowly but surely becoming a Democratic town, and Leslie is a de facto leader of the new liberal power structure in Northern Nevada.

• Billy Vassiliadis: The chief executive of R&R Partners, the big advertising and public affairs firm, was heavily courted and went with Obama, saying he wanted to feel like he was part of a movement. He’s advised the campaign’s Chicago headquarters on messaging, which has been spot on. Never a field guy, he also learned a thing or two about grass-roots politics.

For a lobbyist like Vassiliadis, having a friend in the White House is always nice.

• The Culinary Union: The union’s late endorsement of Obama and the humiliation that followed — its members defected in big numbers to back Clinton — have been leavened by last week’s Obama victory. Culinary can now feel its judgment has been vindicated. To sweep the last remnants of humiliation under the rug, union leadership must deliver votes for Obama in Culinary-heavy precincts.

• The Nevada Democratic Party: If Clinton were the nominee, getting the Culinary to contribute to fall’s coordinated campaign efforts would have been difficult, if not impossible, a state party official told me recently. The union, still bitter about a lawsuit by the teachers union to shut down Strip caucus sites, would have sat it out.

Moreover, Obama has consistently polled better in Nevada against the Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, than Clinton, so Democrats think he’ll help in down-ballot races. They also think the Obama political machine will deliver even more newly registered Democrats. Already, the early caucus has given Democrats a 50,000-vote advantage.

• Robby Mook: The veteran political operative, who was Clinton’s state director, is being sought by the Obama campaign, and by just about everyone in search of a campaign manager in Nevada. The Obama victory makes him a winner because his profile reads like this: Just about everywhere Mook took on the Obama team, he won, including Nevada and Ohio.


They know who they are. Let’s leave it at that.

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