Las Vegas Sun

January 22, 2018

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Top stops along Nevada’s presidential campaign trail

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Sen. Barack Obama tries a house favorite, a strawberry smoothie, while making a campaign stop at Comma Coffee Cafe in Carson City, Nevada, in May 2007.

Retail politicking is easy in New Hampshire. Campaigning in Derry? Be sure to catch breakfast at Maryann’s Diner. Concord? Don’t skip the Barley House.

The art of glad-handing presidential candidates has been perfected in New Hampshire.

But what of the new kid on the block of early primary contest states?

With no network of traditional must-stop-here diners, coffee shops or taverns, presidential candidates are at a bit of a loss when it comes to finding hands to shake and babies to kiss in Nevada.

And Nevada presents its own set of challenges, too, with its ubiquitous casinos, strip clubs and brothels.

“We had to stretch for things that were family-friendly and appropriate,” said one Nevada operative who helped scout locations for a Republican candidate four years ago.

Republicans ended up at big box stores. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani chatted up shoppers at a Costco in Reno. Mitt Romney campaigned inside a Target.

“We’re not a real good retail politics state,” said Cory Christensen, a political operative who has worked on Romney’s Nevada campaigns. “We’ve been such a fly-in-and-fly-out state, we tend to do more organized rallies.”

Even seasoned Republican campaign consultants struggled to come up with a good list of potential retail politicking spots.

Maybe we can help.

Here’s our list, compiled through multiple interviews with campaign hands and a look back at four years ago, of places presidential candidates should check out when they make it out to the Silver State:

    • Edwards at the Star Hotel
      Photo by Sam Morris

      The Star

      Elko’s premier Basque restaurant features a bar ringed by a drain so heavy drinkers in the olden days didn’t have to leave their barstools to do their business.

      Today it’s packed with families, tourists and local miners.

      The Star already has its presidential campaign trail cred.

      Democrat John Edwards campaigned there in 2008. He was captured on camera hugging his mistress’ sister.

    • Farmers Market
      Photo by Photo courtesy Carrie Hogan

      Farmers Markets

      For a ready-made crowd of locals, presidential candidates might want to check out the farmers markets. In Southern Nevada, it’s Summerlin on Tuesday nights. In Northern Nevada, it’s downtown Sparks on Thursday nights.

      Again, there’s some presidential history here. Democrat Bill Richardson surprised locals four years ago when he mingled among the vegetable shoppers and beer drinkers in Sparks.

    • Five Guys Burgers and Fries
      Photo by Justin M. Bowen

      Burger joints

      Candidates working the lunch crowds in Clark County could choose among burger chains In-N-Out Burger, Smashburger and Five Guys. It was a Five Guys joint near the White House where President Barack Obama dropped in a couple of years ago and left with $80 in food.

    • Tea Party Express Rally
      Photo by Sam Morris

      Stoney’s Rockin’ Country

      What did we say about looking for wholesome locations for presidential photo ops? Forget that for a moment.

      Stoney’s Rockin’ Country has become a favorite spot for Republican gatherings in Las Vegas, thanks largely to Chuck Muth’s conservative Friday gatherings. That event has moved to Mundo’s, but Stoney’s is still known for hosting conservative radio shows. Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle made frequent stops there and 2012 presidential hopeful Herman Cain has stopped by already.

    • Harrie’s Bagelmania

      Yes, it’s in a Las Vegas Strip mall, but Bagelmania could become a New Hampshire-like breakfast or lunch stop for presidential candidates.

      Democrat John Edwards shook hands there in 2007 before taking the stage to debate his opponents at the Cox Pavilion.

      Don’t worry, Republicans. The shop’s owner took care to inform the press she was apolitical.

    • Margarita Day

      Bertha Miranda’s

      Republicans might not want to follow in the steps of Hillary Clinton, but if they want to reach out to an iconic Reno family and sample some home-style Mexican cuisine or a few margaritas, they should stop at Bertha Miranda’s Restaurant & Cantina.

      Clinton drew a capacity crowd when she campaigned there in the final days of the 2008 Nevada Caucuses.

    • Teens at the Fair
      Photo by Leila Navidi

      Clark County Fair and Rodeo

      Well, it’s too late for presidential hopefuls to hit up the fair in Logandale this year, but local Republicans know not to skip the event. It is tradition for the front-runner to bid on the 4-H animals up for auction. A little secret: Bid on multiple animals to repeatedly hear your candidate’s name called out on the loud speaker.

    • San Gennaro Feast May 2011
      Photo by Leila Navidi

      San Gennaro Feast

      Again, a ready-made crowd of locals can be found at the San Gennaro Feast. Don’t worry, candidates, you still have time to make this one. It begins Sept. 13 at the Rio.

    • PJ & Co. Restaurant Saloon

      If it catches on, this locally owned Reno eatery could be the place to go in Reno if you want to become president. Barack Obama campaigned there in the general election before going on to become the first Democrat to win Nevada with a majority of the vote since John F. Kennedy in 1960.

    • Harry Reid
      Photo by Steve Marcus

      Comma Coffee

      A well-known meeting spot for Nevada lawmakers, Comma Coffee is right across the street from the Nevada Legislature. Nearly every presidential candidate who campaigned in Nevada four years ago made at least one stop at the quirky coffee house.

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