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December 15, 2017

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Obama visits Las Vegas, aiming to boost Democrats’ prospects

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John Locher / AP

President Barack Obama speaks at a rally Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in North Las Vegas. Obama was in Nevada to boost Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and help Democrats in their bid to retake control of the Senate.

Updated Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 | 6:10 p.m.

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President Barack Obama, center, talks with Democratic Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto, right, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada after speaking at Cheyenne High School in North Las Vegas on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, at a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Cortez Masto. Obama was in Nevada to boost Clinton's presidential campaign and help Democrats in their bid to retake control of the Senate.

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President Barack Obama greets people Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, after arriving at McCarran International Airport. Obama is in Nevada to boost Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and help Democrats in their bid to retake control of the Senate.

President Barack Obama touched down at McCarran International Airport just after 3:40 p.m. Sunday, stopping to shake hands with about 30 invited Las Vegas Valley guests before heading to a scheduled rally at Cheyenne High School in North Las Vegas.

In the midst of cellphone-picture snapping and handshaking, the president was handed a baby, which he held as the crowd cheered.

Las Vegas resident Maria Dolores, 52, said it was the first time she had ever seen the president in-person. The 20-year Las Vegas resident said she was invited by friends for the exclusive event.

"Really cool and a one-of-a-kind experience," Dolores said in her native Spanish. "He's as nice in person as he seems on TV."

After stepping on stage at Cheyenne High School and greeting a cheering crowd, Obama emphasized the importance of voting.

"I need everybody here to not just vote yourselves, but you've got to get your friends, your neighbors, your cousins to vote," he told the crowd. "You know the stakes. We can't afford the other guy."

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President Barack Obama was looking to boost Hillary Clinton's prospects and help Democrats in their bid to retake Senate control, scheduling a campaign stop Sunday in tightly contested Nevada before headlining party fundraisers in California.

Obama's recent itinerary has focused on competitive White House states that also have close Senate races. In Nevada, the president is trying to help Democrats retain the seat of the Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid, who is serving out his fifth term before retiring.

The president was scheduled to speak at a rally at a Las Vegas-area high school for Clinton and Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto, a former state attorney general whose opponent is GOP Rep. Joe Heck.

Late Sunday, Obama planned to speak at an event in San Diego to benefit the organization that leads party efforts to election Democrats to the House. His schedule included fundraisers in Los Angeles on Monday and Tuesday.

Polls indicate that the presidential and Senate races in Nevada are extremely tight. Reid's seat is considered the only one Republicans could reasonably flip to their side this election. Outside groups have spent tens of millions of dollars trying to influence the outcome.

Heck, now in his third House term, is trying to distance himself from GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Two weeks ago, Heck said: "I cannot, in good conscience, continue to support him nor can I vote for Hillary Clinton."

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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto, shakes hands with U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., after the Nevada Senatorial Debate at Canyon Springs High School on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in North Las Vegas. The debate was televised statewide.

But Democrats are calling it too little, too late. Cortez Masto said in the recent Senate debate, "Donald Trump's ship is sinking, and Congressman Heck is scurrying off it."

Heck was one of the first GOP candidates to withdraw his backing from Trump after a recently released video showed Trump making sexually inappropriate comments about women back in 2005. Heck's decision could help him appeal to moderate voters, but he risks alienating some of Trump's ardent supporters.

Obama is working to tie Republican candidates to Trump every chance he gets. "I mean, I know that some of them now are walking away. But why did it take you this long?" Obama said during a speech in Miami this past week when he criticized Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Democrats need to pick up five seats to gain the majority in the Senate, or four if they hang onto control of the White House. The vice president casts tie-breaking votes in the Senate.

The Associated Press, including reporter Kevin Freking, contributed to this report.

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