Report from Las Vegas: Obama Inching Ahead As a “Recession-Proof” Local Economy Falls Behind

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These days, the city that lives off the fat of high-stakes risk is also suffering its consequences. Las Vegans can no longer deny the fact that their major industry is not, as so many once claimed, immune to financial downturns. Casino traffic and income in Nevada are declining. (According to one theory, while people still gamble when they’re broke, they do it closer to home.) The foreclosure crisis has hit this state hard; you can now drive by subdivisions in which a majority of the houses look dark and uninhabited. New arrivals are finding that they can furnish their homes with what’s been thrown away by departing residents.

The latest polls are showing Obama pulling ahead of McCain in Nevada. Sunday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal/Mason Dixon poll of likely voters has 47 percent for Obama, 45 percent for McCain, and 6 percent undecided. According to Hugh Jackson, who runs an excellent local progressive blog, the Las Vegas Gleaner, these local polls are notoriously unreliable. And the narrow point spread may be statistically insignificant. Still Congressional Quarterly’s election map just shifted Nevada from the “toss up” category to “leaning Obama.” And there’s certainly been a big change from the Review-Journal’s poll two months ago, which had McCain leading Obama 46 percent to 39 percent, with 15 percent undecided.

Key to the results here election will be how independents vote. They could amount to as much as 40 percent, but their makeup is wildly divergent , and includes Greens as well as libertarians. Latinos, widely considered the sleeping giant in this election, make up around 20 percent of the registered vote, and Obama has been pouring resources into registration here with special attention to Latinos. Then there are the old people, another 20 to 25 percent, who are likely to break for McCain, though it’s anyone’s guess by how much. What matters here, as elsewhere, is who actually gets themselves into voting booths on November 4. And as I’ve written elsewhere, here in Nevada, as elsewhere, there are plenty of efforts underway to keep those numbers down.

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