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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Early Votes In Nevada Point To Obama

Lauren Foliart |
November 3, 2012 | 8:58 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

LAS VEGAS -- As election night creeps closer, Nevada's six electoral votes continue to be a vital factor in who will take the presidency, and as of now, President Barack Obama looks to take them.

Early voting in the Silver State closed Friday with roughly 50,000 more Democrats voting than Republicans among the 700,000 Nevadans turning out early. The number will be a historic benchmark for a state becoming defined by the early vote. 

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, 56 percent of the state's 1.2 million registered voters casted votes during the two-week window - a notch up from the 53.7 percent turnout in 2008 general election when Nevada voted for Obama.

"Nevada has seen a steady increase in early voters since the 2000 election," said Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Steve Sebelius. "But in 2008, Obama revolutionized early voting in the state by urging it in his campaign."

For a state that has historically voted Republican, Obama looks to take Nevada once again, and this time it will be more telling of the state's demographics.  

While Nevada voted for Bill Clinton both in 1992 and 1996, Sebelius called the statistics "misleading" because people forget that Clinton ran alongside the independent candidate Ross Perot. He said the last time a Democrat wholeheartedly carried Nevada was Lyndon B. Johnson in the early '60s.  

"When Obama ran in 2008 there was no third-party candidate," Sebelius said. "Also McCain gave up on Nevada. He saw Obama's early lead and moved his energy elsewhere. But [Mitt] Romney hasn't given up. The victory will mean more this year than in 2008 because it's an actual contest." 

Polls show the president's lead as narrow but steady, with Nevada being one of the firmer bricks in Obama's electoral "firewall," despite it having the worst economy of any state.

Nevada's 11.8 unemployment rate remains the worst in the nation and foreclosures continue to destroy the lives of its residents. But Obama maintains a lead over Romney with many pointing to the state's evolving political landscape remodeled by sweeping minority populations as the reason.

Nevada's population growth in the past 20 years has doubled from 1.2 million in 1990 to 2.7 million in 2012. According to The New York Times'  FiveThirtyEight series, non-hispanic whites are still a majority comprising 54 percent of the state, but not by much. Hispanics are 27 percent, African-Americans are almost 9 percent and Asians are about 8 percent.

The expanding populations have also made Nevada significantly more urban with growth focused around Las Vegas and Reno. Republicans still dominate the rural parts of the state, but that only accounts for 15 percent. Seventy percent of Nevadans reside in majorly Democratic Clark County, which is home to Las Vegas.

"Early votes were highest in Clark County and Washoe County," Sebelius said. "Statewide Democrats and non-partisans outbid Republicans. Republicans think they will make it up with absentees, but I don't see that happening."

For Nevada, the next question becomes who will win the Senate race. As of right now, Rep. Shelley Berkley needs an upswing to beat past Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and the polls don't look promising.  

If Obama wins by 6 percent to 8 percent, Berkley is in the clear

"Obama is clearly going to win, but the question is by how much and how it will effect the race," said Sebelius. "Obama's victory by points could drag Berkley to the win."


Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage on the 2012 election here.

Reach Staff Reporter Lauren Foliart here.



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