The Silver State of the Union

It seems it was only yesterday we were getting ready to elect a new president. It would be nice to catch a break, but with our February 2012 caucus date, Nevada is square in the center of the president’s campaign radar. Cue the teleprompters and haul out the yard signs, ladies and gentlemen, campaign season is right around the corner.

President Obama’s son-of-a-preacher-man type campaign rhetoric charmed Americans young and old into electing him to the highest office in the land, and he occasionally whips out one of those speeches to rally the unwashed masses and remind them why they voted for him.

This year’s state of the union address was one of those times. Obama’s delivery was a bit hollow, as were most of his words. His ever-present platitudes and rhetorical flourishes lacked their usual ethereal, gauzy quality. Instead Obama appeared to be disinterested, obtuse, almost bored. This speech left us with semi-grandiose imaginings, not goals. We deserve more from our president. A lot more. The state of the union address is supposed to be an annual address presented by the President of the United States to the U.S. Congress to report on the condition of the nation and his legislative priorities for the coming year, not the maiden voyage of his newest campaign speech.

But thank goodness Obama has decided to wage war—can I still say that?—against earmarks! For two years, conservatives have been lambasting the administration for quadrupling our deficit with cushy giveaways to labor unions, Wall Street bigwigs and the very same government bureaucrats who got us into this mess. Only after he saw his super majorities evaporate did Obama suddenly decide that eliminating earmarks is a good idea. That’s quite a change for the president, who in early 2009 said, “Done right, earmarks have given legislators the opportunity to direct federal money to worthy projects that benefit people in their districts, and that’s why I’ve opposed their outright elimination.”

So would it be prudent to say Obama actually voted for pork-laden, earmark-heavy bills before he voted against them?

But I digress. Regardless of the quality of Obama’s rhetorical performance, his reelection campaign message is starting to appear, and much of it is pointedly intended for Nevada. I wonder how many times Obama glanced over at the Nevada delegation during his speech? A subtle nod to Senator Reid when talking about high speed trains? A discreet wink to Congresswoman Berkley when he mentioned renewable energy? Nevada will prove to be an interesting place during the next election, and for much more than our electoral votes. We have been stubbornly blue during the last few elections, and there is a widening chasm between the Republicans’ conservative base and the moderate unaffiliated voters. Democrats sense weakness, and they are preparing for it. There is a stable of fresh, charismatic young Democrats pushing at the gate, relishing the opportunity to pick off our shiny new congressional seat or the likes of Sen. John Ensign. Regardless of their popularity, they will have the money, the organization, and a whole lot of visits from the president to keep the wind in their sails.

Campaign 2012 is starting to take shape. Obama is already dusting off the good ol’ hope and change, and that irritating Pepsi-looking O sunset thing will start popping up all over the state. Presidential contenders will start to materialize at our parades, our public events and unfortunately on our airwaves. We here in Nevada will be in pole position in the 2012 debate, and everybody from Obama on down knows this. We may only have a few electoral votes, but for President Barack Obama, the long bumpy road back to the White House could very well be paved with silver.