There's something strange about seeing a devout Mormon race around Las Vegas, pleading with gamblers, smokers, drinkers and other assorted sinners for their votes.
But then that's politics for ya.
Mitt Romney, who was not supposed to be here right now, has suddenly appeared in the desert, and enjoyed himself so much today, he's going to spend the next three days here, running hard in Nevada's Republican caucus. That means one of two things: either he's got South Carolina in the bag, and can afford to turn his attention to the Silver State...or he's giving up on South Carolina, and conceding it to John McCain or Mike Huckabee. I think it's the latter, so Romney has decided to go for broke in Nevada, which until today, the Republicans weren't taking very seriously. You can understand the strategy in Romney's camp: okay, we're not going to win in the Carolinas, so let's get out to Nevada and make a big deal out of winning there.
This is indeed fertile ground for Romney. Las Vegas was first settled by Mormons (did you know "las vegas" means "the meadows"? I always wondered what it meant. Ah, the many blessings of the tourist guide book in my hotel room). Utah is right next door. And Nevada's most powerful politician, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is a Mormon, albeit a liberal Democrat. Nevadans in general may be a little too liberal for Romney, but he only needs 30% of their Republicans, or so, to win.
Look out for Ron Paul, though. He's the only other candidate running ads here, and the Area 51 Nevada fringe element may embrace his libertarian point of view.
It's surreal to be in Vegas on serious business at all, with its relentless glitz and 24-hour debauchery. I encountered a rowdy gang of hard-partying Republican businessmen on holiday, who were drunkenly arguing over who should get their vote. They seemed to be split between Fred Thompson and Ron Paul, and were debating who the truest conservatives were. Their political intercourse didn't seem to dovetail with the other kind they were seeking.
This town is lousy with Democratic candidates. I think there are six different permanent Cirque du Soleil shows running here, and I'll bet the Barack and Hillary Show puts on more performances tonight. Obama, Clinton and John Edwards are simply everywhere. From here to Reno, from Elko to Henderson to Boulder City, they are racing about, holding rallies, town halls and get-out-the-vote cheerleading parties. Hillary has a rally in Vegas at 9 in the morning tomorrow, and then another one back here at 9 at night. She has three more in other cities in between.
Obama took his wife Michelle out for a birthday dinner after tonight's rally. He wouldn't say where they were eating. Tomorrow night, he'll eat at a Martin Luther King Jr. dinner. His local headquarters is on MLK Boulevard. And no, Hillary's is NOT on LBJ Street.
The next two days will be a marathon, for the candidates, the voters, and for me, too. We'll be up and at 'em bright and early, and will blog as much as possible until we know the winners sometime Saturday afternoon...