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President seeks to win back support in shortened swing through Las Vegas

Obama arrives

Steve Marcus

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

East area neighborhood welcomes Obama

KSNV coverage of President Barack Obama campaigning in Sunrise Manor, a neighborhood near Las Vegas High School, Oct. 24, 2011.

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 »

Obama arrives in Las Vegas

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

President Barack Obama came to Las Vegas to sell his new housing plan — but also to mend a few fences.

For the last two years running, the president has mixed negative quips about Las Vegas into his stump speeching on responsible economic policy, much to the city’s discontent.

On this, his inaugural Las Vegas trip of the 2012 campaign season, he’d clearly learned not to repeat his Sin City sins of the past.

“It is good to be back in Las Vegas, it is good to be back in Nevada,” Obama told a crowd of about 250 gathered to hear his remarks at a fundraiser in the Bellagio Monday afternoon.

“I love coming to Vegas; the only people who love coming more is my staff,” he said, getting laughs from the audience. “I would not be surprised if some of them miss the plane accidentally.”

He probably didn’t have to lay it on quite so thick, as it was clear that from the moment he arrived, the city’s top brass were willing to turn over a new leaf.

“That’s in the past,” said Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman — whose husband had demanded an apology after Obama said “you don’t go blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.” She met Obama when he disembarked Air Force One at 11:56 a.m. local time, handing him one of her “Good Luck Mayor” poker chips, and embracing him with one arm as they had a long chat, and slow walk, to greet residents of the city who had gathered near the plane.

“I’m very excited and I hope that he’s going to do beautifully for us in the future and talk about Las Vegas as a great place to visit and have conventions here,” Goodman said she told Obama. “In Nevada, we know you love it here, you come back again and again, but you need to tell the world how wonderful we are.”

When Obama did speak to the nation, and the world, from a small crafted stage set up outside the Bonilla family’s house in East Las Vegas Monday afternoon, the subject was sordid state of the local economy, not the enticing nature of the Strip’s slots.

But more striking was the fact that he spoke alone.

Obama’s not yet appeared in Las Vegas during the 2012 campaign season, but on his past swings through the state, he was always buttressed by Nevada’s two most prominent Democrats: Harry Reid, who runs the Senate and Shelley Berkley, who’s running for it.

It’s a theme the National Republican Senatorial Committee picked up on the eve of Obama’s visit, releasing a one minute and 15 second long commercial depicting a “Berkley-Reid-Obama disaster” axis, in which they hammered the two Nevada congressional Democrats for supporting the president’s policies, even though the local economy remains the worst in the nation.

But neither Reid nor Berkley were anywhere to be seen at Obama’s events Monday.

Reid was originally scheduled to appear with Obama, but according to a spokesman for his office, had to cancel a few days ago because his wife, Landra, was undergoing a procedure at the hospital. She was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer a few weeks ago.

A spokeswoman for Berkley cited professional responsibilities for her absence.

“She couldn’t be there because they had votes at 6:30 tonight,” said Berkley spokeswoman Jessica Mackler. “You can’t be in D.C. at 6:30 p.m. and Vegas at 11 a.m.”

According to the House of Representatives’ official register, Berkley cast two “yea” votes, beginning at 6:54 p.m. EST. The first was a measure “to designate a Distinguished Flying Cross National Memorial at the March Field Air Museum in Riverside, California” which passed by a vote of 392-1; 40 representatives missed that vote. The second, a measure “to require the Secretary of the Interior to convey the McKinney Lake National Fish Hatchery to the State of North Carolina, and for other purposes” passed by a vote of 395 to zero, with 38 representatives not voting.

So Obama gave his national policy speech a Vegas gloss on his own.

On housing.

“Here in Las Vegas, the city that’s been hit hardest of all, almost the entire housing market is under severe stress,” Obama said.

On jobs.

“We've got huge challenges in places like Nevada. We've got a jobs bill out there that is paid for and addresses those challenges,” Obama said.

And on the local niche industry, tourism.

“I agree that there are some rules and regulations that put an unnecessary burden on business at a time when we can’t afford it. I mean, we’ve seen this in our travel bureau,” Obama said. “The bureaucracy for getting a visa to come visit Vegas is too long. We want to get them here quicker; they can stay longer and spend more.”

Unfortunately, the president didn’t quite heed his own call on that last point Monday. Not quite three and a half hours after he arrived in Las Vegas, it was wheels-up for Air Force One: on to California.

He left about a half-hour early.

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