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POLITICS:

Democrats play their ace in the hole — Obama

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Leila Navidi

Volunteer Rachel Sorensen, 21, of Boston prepares signs for the rally with President Obama at Orr Middle School in Las Vegas Thursday, October 21, 2010.

Preparing for the President

volunteers prepare signs for the rally with President Obama at Orr Middle School in Las Vegas Thursday, October 21, 2010. Launch slideshow »

The message President Barack Obama will bring to Las Vegas today has been the Democrats’ battle cry this election season. He will try to convince voters the party has their best interest in mind, highlight its efforts to turn around the economy and plead for voters’ help in moving its policies forward, reminding them what’s at stake.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Dina Titus, both locked in tough re-election fights, have recited those talking points for months. Now, they turn to the party’s motivator in chief to deliver their closing argument.

Democrats hope Obama — who rallied unprecedented support in 2008 and despite his fading approval ratings still draws an impressive crowd — can make the message stick.

“He does as good a job as anybody we have to energize the base,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said. “The strength of the field game will be the tipping point in these races, and President Obama’s rally will be a great motivator in getting people out to vote.”

Obama will speak this afternoon to a crowd expected to be in the thousands at Orr Middle School, 1562 E. Katie Ave. The event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 4:30 p.m.; doors open at 3:30 p.m.

Recent Obama rallies in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio were followed by an increase in Democratic enthusiasm, especially among minority voters.

That could be key in Nevada. Republican Sharron Angle’s comments about Hispanics and illegal immigrants, and her failure to denounce an ad that encouraged Hispanics to sit out the election, have been points of contention in the Senate race.

Obama’s campaign stops have boosted Democratic candidates in the polls and sparked a surge in early voting. Today, he will direct those who attend the rally to a polling place across the street.

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.

At the heart of the GOP’s zeal is the Tea Party movement, which has attracted voters angry about a government they say has grown too big, too intrusive and too expensive. Candidates such as Angle, Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell and Kentucky’s Rand Paul have made significant headway riding the Tea Party wave, which is in some ways redefining the Republican Party.

Vice President Joe Biden, in Reno on Wednesday, argued that voters must defeat the Tea Party candidates because they would make it “more difficult to govern.”

Although it’s unclear whether Obama will refer to the Tea Party in his Las Vegas speech, he will likely tell Las Vegans something similar to what he told a crowd Thursday in Seattle: “We need you fired up.”

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