Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 | 5:26 p.m.
Updated Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 | 8:10 p.m.
It was the most star-studded event billing of what has been a busy presidential campaign season in Southern Nevada, and the crowd revealed as much.
About 11,200 people stood for hours in 90-degree heat Sunday for a chance to see a campaign rally for President Barack Obama that also featured world-famous rock band Maná at Desert Pines High School.
It was Obama’s eighth trip to the Silver State this year, according to the campaign, and the crowd far surpassed the 8,000 the president drew to Cashman Center in September.
Sounding familiar themes from his campaign, Obama promised to ensure opportunity for all, reduce the federal debt “without sticking it to the middle class” and boost manufacturing jobs.
“Now, what I want to promote is a new economic patriotism rooted in the belief we can grow the economy best when everybody’s got a shot,” he said. “I won’t pretend it will be easy to get there. It took us a bunch of years to get us in this mess.
“But I want everybody to know our challenges can be solved and our problems can be met.”
Obama also promised never to turn “Medicare into a voucher program” and said he would continue to work to help underwater homeowners refinance.
He took a couple of shots at his Republican rival Mitt Romney’s campaign, arguing Romney espouses policies responsible for the economic collapse.
“In fairness, my opponent’s got a plan, too,” Obama said. “They think that somehow you can lower our deficits by spending another $5 trillion on tax cuts for the wealthy. No matter how many times they try to reboot their campaign and try to explain it, they can’t.”
Obama also chastised Romney for remarks Romney made that he doesn’t have to worry about winning over the 47 percent of Americans already supporting Obama.
“Four years ago, 47 percent of the people didn’t vote for me,” Obama said. “They voted for John McCain. That’s the way Democracy works. But on election night, I said, ‘I may not have won your vote, but I heard your voice.’”
Obama closed his 25-minute speech with a plea for help from his supporters.
“If you stand with me and work with me, we will win Clark County again,” he said. “We will win Nevada again. We will win this election again. We will finish what we started.”
Obama’s rally was the start of a three-day stay in Southern Nevada.
He arrived in Las Vegas at 12:40 p.m., traveling immediately to the Westin Lake Las Vegas to begin preparing for the first debate of the presidential campaign Wednesday.
“You may have a heard in a few days my opponent and I are going to have a debate. I’m looking forward to it,” Obama said at the start of his rally speech. “I don’t know who is going to put the most points on the board. … Gov. Romney, he’s a good debater, I’m just OK. But what I’m most concerned about is having a serious discussion about what we need to do to keep the country going.”
While standing in line before the event, Las Vegas resident Lucy Bonilla said that she has been a Maná fan since she was 12 years old, but she was more excited to see Obama.
“If I had to give Obama a grade for his first term, it would be a B+,” Bonilla said. “It hasn’t been 100 percent perfect, but I know he can accomplish more. He needs to focus on the economy, schools and immigration.”
Before Obama’s speech, Maná played a handful of their biggest hits, including “Mariposa Traicionera” and “Corazon Espinado.”
After the first song, lead singer Fernando Olvera said in Spanish that they chose to play an Obama event because they believe he is “the best option for all Latinos,” and then he urged everyone to “get out and vote.”
In the latest ImpreMedia/Latin Decisions poll of Hispanic voters, 71 percent said they had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” impression of the president, while 26 percent said the same of Romney.
The temperature was well over 90 degrees today, but that did not deter Obama's supporters from lining up as early as 10 a.m. for the rally. The high temperatures led some to seek medical attention for heat exhaustion.
Husband and wife Denny and Lisa Tessmer got in line at 10 a.m. for their first Obama rally of the year. They have a 28-year-old son who is in Afghanistan with the Marines. One of their top concerns is ending the war.
"I'm a little worried about how close the election is, but I think Obama will pull it out in the end," Lisa Tessmer said before the event. "He deserves a second term. People expected so much from him right away, and it was a big mess that he started with."
In addition to Obama's supporters, protesters gathered outside the event. The Romney campaign also circulated a mobile billboard at the Obama event that read "12.1 percent Unemployment — Highest in the Nation / You Built This."
Political action committee Tea Party Express was in Las Vegas for a rally on Sunday as well.
"President Obama and the Democrats are grossly out of touch with Americans and the economic struggles of our nation. However, we have a chance to correct our path in November. This bus tour will focus on states and districts we need in order to gain control of Congress and the White House. We want to engage and educate voters on the conservative solutions that will return our nation to a path towards prosperity,” Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer said in a statement announcing the group’s bus tour stop in Southern Nevada.
Ann Romney will host a campaign rally Monday at the Henderson Convention Center, 200 S. Water St. The doors open at 1 p.m., and the event is expected to start at 3:40 p.m.
On Friday, Craig Romney, son of the GOP nominee, was in Las Vegas to cut the ribbon on a new campaign office at 235 N. Eastern Ave, Suite 112. The office, just east of downtown Las Vegas, was billed by the campaign as a new outpost for Romney to reach out to Hispanic voters.
Although the campaign rally is the only public event on Obama's schedule, he's expected to make some unannounced local stops during his stay in Henderson.
Campaign advisers David Axelrod and Joe Benenson traveled with Obama on Air Force One to Las Vegas. Sen. John Kerry, who stands in as Republican Mitt Romney during mock debates, also will help Obama with his debate preparation this week.