Monday, February 19, 2007

"Obama campaigns as the outsider in brief stop in Nevada"

Las Vegas Sun (AP):
White House hopeful Barack Obama on Sunday railed against "slash and burn" politics in Washington in a brief stop in Nevada, his first to the early caucus state since declaring his presidential ambitions.
"So we've got to get beyond the small politics, the timid politics ... the slash and burn politics that have become the custom in Washington," the Democratic senator from Illinois told a crowd 3,500 gathered at an outdoor amphitheater just northwest of the Las Vegas Strip.

Before a fired up crowd waving blue "Obama08" signs and small American flags, Obama largely stuck to the broad outsider themes that have underscored his campaign since it was launched Feb. 10.

The senator, whose father was from Kenya and whose mother came from Kansas, placed his candidacy on a timeline of civil rights struggles and promised to restore a sense of hope and community that he said has been lost in American politics.

"We all have a stake in each other. We are bound together, we are mutually responsible to make sure that every child has an opportunity, to make sure that every family has the capacity to support their children and look for a better future," he said.

Obama called for more funding for education, said significant numbers of troops should be coming home from the Middle East by March 31 and pledged to reform the health care system by focusing on preventative care and cutting administrative costs by 10 percent.

"We could take all that money and we could put it into making sure that ... by the end of my first term, every single American has accessible, affordable health care. There's no reason why we can't do it," he said to roaring applause.

National Democrats gave Nevada the second Democratic caucus in the nation as a way to put water, public lands, nuclear waste disposal, unions and Hispanics on the nominee's agenda. It's still not clear whether candidates will devote the time and resources to the state.

Except for a passing reference to immigration, Obama did not mention hot topics in Nevada and the West. He took no questions from the audience or the media, and spent only about three hours in the state before flying to San Diego for a fundraiser.

His campaign later sent a statement to reporters noting the senator is opposed to storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, a proposed nuclear dump 90 miles northwest of the Las Vegas.

The senator "believes we should redirect spending on alternatives, such as improving the safety and security of spent fuel at plant sites around the country. At the same time, we should continue looking for a safe, long-term disposal solution based on sound science," the statement said.

Nevada Democratic Party Chairman Tom Collins said he wasn't concerned that Obama didn't tailor his comments to address Nevada issues.

"This was an introduction, he's going to be come back and back, for sure," Collins said.

Obama is the only major declared candidate not coming back to the state Wednesday for the first Democratic candidates' forum of the race in Carson City.

Campaign spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said the short trip and declined invitation should not be taken as a sign that Obama won't prioritize the state.

"We take Nevada very seriously," he said, noting the senator has hired staff and has been talking to state leaders about issues.

Hours before his speech, Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, announced that her campaign has signed on Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as an adviser on Western issues and chair of her Nevada campaign.

The announcement prompted Sen. Reid to release a statement noting he is still neutral and believes all candidates who come to Nevada arrive "on equal footing."

"Rory is a 44-year-old man who makes his own decisions and I respect him for that, but let me be very clear: Rory's work with Sen. Clinton should in no way be taken as an endorsement by me," Reid said in statement.


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