Yesterday I canvassed a lower-middle class precinct near downtown Reno, Nev., which is in Washoe County, which is, by all accounts, perhaps the final battlefront in the presidential election come Nov. 4. I banged on maybe 20 doors and found about 10 residents at home in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon; six of those were solidly for Obama. Only one was a staid McCain voter. In miniature, it illustrates what's happening across the country as Barack Obama appears on his way to an electoral victory. Nevada hasn't gone blue since 1992, but that's about to change.
Three weeks ago, the day after Congress rejected the first Bush bailout proposal, Barack Obama attracted more than 12,000 people to a rally at the University of Nevada, Reno. Two weeks later we found out that the phenomenal ground game put together by the Obama campaign has pushed Democrats into the registered voter lead in what has long been a red county, by roughly 1300 voters. Yesterday Sarah Palin visited Reno for the first time, attracting about 3,000 people (not 30,000, as reported by Fox-Faux News), some of them curious Democrats who weren't impressed. For every one McCain/Palin sign I see, there are 20 Obama/Biden signs. Some longtime locals (I've lived here 25 years) chalk that up to the "California effect" — a huge influx of Californians, mostly Bay Area denizens seeking the Silver State's "friendlier" tax structure (which, of course, translates into dismal public services and bad roads, but that's beside the point). They think it's an anomaly. I think not. Northern Nevada is seeing a demographic and political shift as Reno itself moves from good-ol'-boy city to a more cosmopolitan, outward-looking community. It's still all about guns, mining and low taxes to many folks, but that doesn't mean Obama's progressive ideas aren't swaying more than a few Repub moderates and energizing unabashed liberals like me. Early voting returns show a big Obama surge, and I'm one of hundreds of volunteers (many of them college kids from California) out there urging supporters to take the early voting gift and run with it. No reason to chance some voter-purging shananigans on election day.
Obama's local campaign manager is praying that his boss is pushed over the electoral top long before the polls close in Washoe County at 7 p.m. PST Nov. 4, so it doesn't come down to us, and him. Given the current numbers in other western swing states like Colorado and New Mexico and Obama's leads in Pennsylvania and promising upticks in Ohio, Florida and Virginia, that could be the case. But we can't sit back and relax. Nor will McCain back off until he staggers across the finish line, underfunded and exhausted. It's gonna get ugly over the next 12 days, but the beauty of true change is just over the horizon.