President Obama rolled out a veritable rhetorical arsenal of fresh inspiration as well as some old campaign standbys at an outdoor rally for Harry Reid in Las Vegas Friday night. The high-profile visit followed that of Sarah Palin, Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, each of whom this week endeavored to inspire and turn out electoral troops in the Battle Born state.
As the president took the stage, arms raised and beaming, the crowd chanted “O-bam-a, O-bam-a” until interrupted and led in a chant of “Har-ry, Har-ry” by the object of their adoration. The moment perfectly illustrated the reason for the presidential visit. While even the most loyal Democratic voters may be unable to muster much passion for Reid, they still love their president.
As the roar subsided and those seated behind him took their seats, Obama masterfully went about channeling audience ardor into action.
With rhetoric reminiscent of his 2008 campaign, Obama framed the election as a matter of great import not just now but into the future, saying, “But the main reason I’m here, the main reason I need you fired up, is because in just 11 days, you have the chance to set the direction of this state and this country — not just for the next five years, not just for the next 10 years, but for the next several decades.”
Appealing to the populist spirit of the nation in these hard times, Obama added, “And if I’m going to be able to help middle-class families all across this country live out their dreams, then I want to have a partner in the United States Senate named Harry Reid.”
The president expertly weaved the we-are-just-like-you narrative, reminding the rapt gathering of Reid’s humble beginnings.
“Harry has never forgotten what it’s like to grow up in Searchlight, Nevada,” said Obama. “He knows what it’s like to be poor. He knows what it’s like to work hard. He knows what it’s like to hit some bumps in the road.”
The U.S Senate race in Nevada is both logistically serious and largely symbolic for both parties. For Democrats, the election is a referendum on the White House’s ambitious agenda and hard-won legislative victories, all of which Reid helped usher through Congress. For Republicans, it is representative of their dismay and disgust with overreaching federal policy and a reflection of the power of the Tea Party, not to mention a possible bellwether of things to come in 2012.
Rory Reid, who is about to lose the governor’s race and spoke a few minutes prior to his father and the president, drove to the heart of the practical matter by reminding the crowd they have the advantage.
“There are more of us than there are of them,” said Rory. “If we show up, we will win.”
Democrats possess a statewide voter registration edge of 60,000 over Republicans. Despite the majority leader’s unprecedented unpopularity, all it will take for Reid to pull off a victory is a strong turnout.
Obama reminded the crowd that early voting is already underway.
“You have to vote, everybody,” he said, directing them to a nearby mall where voting machines awaited.
Early in his remarks, Obama invoked that old familiar phrase, “In 11 days, you can say to them: you may think, no, we can’t; we think, yes, we can.”
The audience responded, chanting, “Yes, we can! Yes, we can!”
Harry Reid sure hopes so.