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Ryan rallies Nevada one last time as campaign shifts to true battleground

Paul Ryan in Reno, NV: Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2012

Mary Altaffer / AP

Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. gestures as he speaks during a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 in Reno, Nev.

Updated Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 | 9:46 a.m.

Paul Ryan in Reno, NV: Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2012

Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. gestures as he speaks during a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 in Reno, Nev.  Launch slideshow »

RENO — Republican vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan briefly touched down here today, the first stop in a "barnstormer" final day of campaigning to convince Nevadans they still have the power to deliver the presidency to Mitt Romney.

"Nevada we are counting on you," he told a cheering crowd inside an aviation hanger at the Reno airport. "We know you can do this. We can do this together. Lets run through the tape. Lets leave it all on the field."

Ryan's visit is the second to critical Washoe County in four days — a move Republicans hope will disspel the growing notion that Nevada may have slipped off the map of battleground states.

"So many Americans are looking to you right here in Reno to make sure you cast your vote for actual real change, to get us off this dangerous path we’re on," he said.

Ryan is the only one of the four men atop the presidential ballot to spend time on election eve in Nevada.

This weekend, Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama both spent a grueling 72 hours campaigning in states that appear close enough to be won by either man.

Romney pushed through New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Ohio. More than once, the two candidates literally crossed paths on the tarmacs at swing state airports.

Obama focused this weekend on Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire and Florida.

Noticeably absent from the list of either candidate: Nevada.

The Silver State has spent nearly the entire electing basking in the glow of battleground status. At one point, a mathematical model by Nate Silver of the New York Times labeled Nevada has home to voters with the highest statistical probability swinging the election individually.

Both tickets graced Nevada with their presence more than a dozen times this cycle and spent nearly $50 million combined battering voters from the television airwaves. The Obama campaign repeatedly named Nevada as integral to their firewall against Romney’s advantage in other close states and focused much of its attention here.

So why is Nevada largely absent from the presidential candidate’s marathon final days push?

We no longer look so much like a battleground.

With early voting complete, perhaps as many as two-thirds of 2012 voters have already cast a ballot. Among those voters, Democrats have a striking turnout lead of nearly 50,000 voters. Obama has lead in every public opinion poll conducted since the start of the election and Democrats have a significant advantage in registered voters.

Those metrics prompted leading campaign trackers this weekend to shift Nevada to the likely Obama column. Silver has removed Nevada from the list of competitive states entirely and shaded the state blue on his tracking map.

Romney campaign advisers have privately conceded to some national journalists that Nevada is off the table for them.

Still, Ryan is squeezing a couple critical hours of his time to rally supporters at the Reno airport today — a move that seems incongruous with national pundit proclamations and publicly available numbers.

The reasoning behind the visit is two-fold. Romney may still have a narrow path to victory in Nevada, as his campaign advisers claim.

“If one-third of votes are left to be cast on Election Day, and of that one-third Romney is expected to win handily — the current trend shows the GOP only 7 points down from Democrats statewide and independents are breaking our way — I like our chances,” one Romney source said.

“It will be close but we will win.”

While Romney’s chances of winning the Silver State appear to be narrowing, Nevada is still a battleground for several down ticket races — particularly the U.S. Senate fight between Republican Dean Heller and Democrat Shelley Berkley.

Public opinion polls have kept this race solidly within the margin of error, with Berkley leaning on the Democrats turnout machine to pull her to victory along with Obama.

But Washoe County — Nevada’s key swing county — has been problematic for her.

Ryan’s election eve visit to Washoe County is aimed not only at convincing Republicans that Nevada is still in play for Romney, but to fire up the troops to vote for Heller and other Republicans in close races.

Romney campaign strategists bristle at the suggestion the race is over in Nevada.

"Paul Ryan would not be here — he would not be here — if that were true," one Romney source said. "Why would he come here?"

Republicans have initiated an unprecedented turnout effort in rural Nevada — traditionally Republican territory that the party has basically assumed would come out in high numbers. This year, the party isn't making that assumption. The GOP is also working to win Washoe County. By boosting rural turnout, winning Washoe and hoping nonpartisans are on their side, the GOP still sees a pathway to victory.

Voters also aren't ready to cede Nevada's battleground status.

"I think it will be tight," said Reno voter Cheryl Christensen, who turned out with hundreds of other Republicans to listen to Ryan's last Reno speech in an air hangar. "I think tomorrow will be nerve wracking for sure."

But as for the line that Nevada's no longer a battleground?

"That's more drivel out of the DNC," Christensen said. "They have to say that."

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