At the end
As Joe Biden’s booming voice filled the Wooster High School gym, you could feel the emotions of the crowd rise in response. He spoke of Nevadans who lost their jobs and their homes during the recession and the callousness of the Republican presidential candidate who called it “good for business.” Biden’s comforting tone increased in volume, surrounding the crowd with empathy as he shouted, “It’s about dignity and respect. It’s about being able to hold your head up.” It was classic Joe Biden preaching to the church of working class voters.
I first met Biden in 2007 when all the Democratic candidates for President were suddenly interested in Nevada due to our newly-minted early state status in the 2008 election. They were searching for support in the Nevada caucus, and state legislators were prime targets to build their networks. Even though the attention was novel, we soon grew weary of the requests for meetings in the midst of a busy legislative session.
When Biden arrived and the call went out to assemble in the caucus room to hear his pitch, I almost skipped it as about half the Democrats did. I thought I’d swing in for 10 minutes, meet the senator, and then escape through a side door to more productive activity. But then I discovered how engaging and irresistible a man our vice president can be. Just like Gov. Kenny Guinn, he had a tendency to grab your forearm as he was talking, and you weren’t going anywhere until he was done. He hasn’t changed his style a bit.
Meeting nationally prominent candidates is now a routine experience for many Nevadans on both sides of the aisle. This year, the day after Biden’s visit on Nevada Day weekend to bolster the campaigns of Clinton and Masto, Donald Trump appeared in Las Vegas to rally his own supporters. Then Clinton came back to Las Vegas. Then her husband did.
Nevada’s purple swing-state status has attracted multiple visits from Clinton, Trump and their vice presidential running mates, along with President Obama and Biden. Other high-profile surrogate visits in the last month have featured many a U.S. senator, such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Sessions, Jeff Merkley and Ted Cruz, who trekked all the way to Elko for the Trump-Heck ticket. House Speaker Paul Ryan stumped for his congressional candidates in Southern Nevada, and many other members of Congress visited Nevada as well.
Although we grouse about the traffic delays caused by Secret Service motorcades and the way surrogates and candidates from the East pronounce Nevada, it’s flattering and satisfying to receive attention once reserved for more populous and influential states. Instead of ignoring us and focusing on the wealth and huge media markets of California, the candidates speak directly to Nevadans packed into local gyms and hotels. It’s incredibly easy for the average Nevadan to interact with our national leaders, and one hopes they remember more about our state than how to pronounce it correctly when they return to Washington.
Nevada and the nation can take a deep breath of relief today, knowing it’s over for another four years. No more incessant mind-numbing emails forecasting doom if a political contribution isn’t made before midnight. No more truth-stretching TV commercials with ominous lighting warning of disaster should a certain candidate be elected. No more earnest door knockers. And, within a few days, no more campaign signs.
As Senator Harry Reid retires, he leaves a long legacy of success in many complex areas of public policy affecting Nevada. The impact of elevating Nevada’s profile in the electoral process may be difficult to quantify, but it’s clear our needs are no longer hidden in the desert of flyover country.