By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Painting himself as the defender of the middle class, President Obama was back in campaign mode Thursday as he kicked off a five-day push before Election day on November 6.
In what amounts to a sprint to the finish line, Obama has scheduled a whirlwind tour through Nevada, Wisconsin and Colorado – states that may as well decide who wins the White House.
His opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, plans to visit Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
But it seems both candidates will meet in Ohio, a key battleground state. Romney will visit the state at two times in the last five days, while Obama will stop by Ohio every day, on the way to other campaign sites.
Nevada now appears to be safe for Obama, although Romney is catching up as absentee ballots start coming in. By Election Day on November 6, at as much as 80 percent of the state’s registered voters could have cast their ballots.
But on Thursday at the Cheyenne Sports complex in North Las Vegas, the president was in a fighting mode as he mocked Romney for his economic policies that favor the rich.
“Our fight goes on because we know this nation cannot succeed without a growing, thriving middle class and strong, sturdy ladders into the middle class,” Obama said. “Our fight goes on because America has always done its best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share.”
Although his criticism of his opponent was less biting than in the past, Obama said Romney has draped himself in the mantle of change, although, in reality his proposals are just a rehash of the failed Republican policies of the past.
“I know what real change looks like, because I fought for it,” Obama said. “I’ve got the scars to prove it. You have, too. And after all that we’ve been through together, Nevada, we sure as heck can’t give up now.”
He recalled the time that former president Bill Clinton asked the rich to give their fair share, and Romney said then that it would hurt the economy.
“We know the ideas that worked,” Obama said. “We also know the ideas that don’t work. Because in the eight years after Bill Clinton left office, his policies were reversed.”
For the first time in a long time, the federal budget was balanced while 20 million jobs were created in Clinton’s term. He left office with a surplus, which evaporated during George W. Bush’s tenure and the era of big deficits began.
Obama charged that Romney is bringing back the same policies that created the economic meltdown in 2008.
For three days, Obama stepped away from campaigning to coordinate the federal response to Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the East Coast.
He received high marks for his handling of the emergency, earning praise even from political opponents, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a top Romney surrogate.
He also arrived in Las Vegas with just a day left in the early voting period. The 10-day schedule ends Friday, with the president enjoying a clear edge, 44 percent to 38 percent over Romney among early voters.
A record 576,520 people in Nevada had cast votes early or by absentee ballot as of 11 a.m. Thursday. That’s 46 percent of the state’s 1.257 million active voters.
In the non-presidential election in 2010, 433,000 residents voted early or by absentee ballots. In the president election in 2008 the early vote-absentee ballot total was 561,000.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said voters in his county have not yet passed their early voting totals of 2008, although he expects that occur Friday.
In the 2008 election, 394,000 people in Clark County voted early and 210,000 cast ballots on Election Day. As of Thursday morning, about 362,000 people in Clark County had voted early. Another 45,000 had cast absentee ballots.
According to the Review-Journal, Lomax predicted an 80 percent total turnout by the end of Election Day in Clark County. That is similar to past presidential election turnouts. Secretary of State Ross Miller anticipates a 75 percent to 80 percent statewide turnout.
“What has been different this time is we haven’t had as big of turnout for early voting the second week, compared with the first,” Lomax said.
The voting figures from the secretary of state also show that Republicans cast absentee ballots more than Democrats, while Democrats are more likely to show up at early voting places than Republicans.
However, Democrats hold a 90,000 advantage in voter registration going into the start of early voting on October 20. An aggressive “ground game,” has also been launched, although Republicans have steadily caught in the past few days.
The fight for Nevada’s six electoral votes is expected to go down the wire, although Obama, who beat John McCain in 2008 by more than 120,000 votes is presently holding the edge.
Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60 and on Facebook at facebook.com/BertEljera.