The all-new, listening and accessible Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton took her message door to door on Thursday night in a heavily Hispanic working-class neighborhood near downtown Las Vegas. She knocked on doors with campaign workers, urging voters to caucus for her in the coming Democratic contest.
As moments go, the walk down the street of small lots and tidy houses was about as spontaneous as a 500-guest wedding. People along the block were told that she would be coming to the Clinton-friendly neighborhood, and live-news trucks outnumbered onlookers in the street.
Many residents still seemed thrilled to see Mrs. Clinton, as she expressed admiration for their homes and introduced small children to her daughter, Chelsea.
'I need your help'
“I need your help,” Mrs. Clinton said again and again, at one point tapping on her heart with a closed hand.
Ray Kincaid seemed mildly shocked to be standing talking to a hoarse Mrs. Clinton in his neighbor’s yard.
“We’re going to do everything we can to get a president who cares about the middle class,” she told him.
“Cool, I appreciate that,” said Mr. Kincaid, who is 20 and not registered to vote.
A campaign worker pressed a caucus commitment form in his hand.
“Uh, can I get a picture first?” Mr. Kincaid asked.
Later, Mrs. Clinton repaired to a nearby Mexican restaurant, where she sat at a large round table and talked with residents over chips and salsa about housing foreclosures, which have hit Nevada worse than anywhere in the nation.
'Slipping into a recession'
Mrs. Clinton said she would like to freeze interest rates for five years, and create a federal program that would help homeowners get “through a bad time,” to prevent foreclosures. Mrs. Clinton also said she believed “we’re slipping into a recession.”
Both events, clearly intended to tap into Clark County’s large Hispanic population, stood in stark contrast to Mrs. Clinton’s last visit to Nevada, when she gave a stump speech from a stage far from supporters in a nature preserve and then departed majestically whence she came.
Mrs. Clinton came to Nevada, which holds its first major Democratic caucus on Jan. 19, with the help of local Democratic support and a one-day jump on her opponent Senator Barack Obama, who arrives Friday to begin campaigning here. The neighborhood where she sought votes is in the Assembly district of Ruben Kihuen, a kingmaker among Democrats.
Although polls here are notoriously unreliable, and none have been conducted in weeks, Mrs. Clinton held a double-digit lead over Mr. Obama in the fall, though even her supporters believe that has eroded since she lost the Iowa caucuses before winning in New Hampshire five days later.
Mrs. Clinton’s team is hoping that her new campaign style, appealing more directly to voters, will help her in Nevada, which for years was all but ignored by national candidates.
“I’m very committed to reaching out and meeting the people in this state,” Mrs. Clinton said. When asked about her teary-eyed moment in New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton referred to having “that connection and that empathy” that might appeal to voters.
Mr. Obama has his own newfound advantages here. On Wednesday, he collected the much-coveted endorsement of the Culinary Workers Union, with its 60,000 members who are expected to convey voters to caucus sites while educating a much-confused population about how the caucuses will work.
Mr. Obama has also gotten the nod from the local Service Employees International Union, a politically potent union that represents more than 17,500 people throughout the state.
Mr. Obama released an advertisement on Thursday in the Las Vegas and Reno markets that highlights his remarks at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner speech this month in Des Moines. Further, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who endorsed Mr. Obama on Thursday, called influential local reporters to try to diminish Mrs. Clinton’s impact on the day of her arrival.
Mrs. Clinton tried to capitalize on being first to arrive at this new Democratic battleground. She received a warm reception at the packed Mexican restaurant, where supporters were turned away.
The crowd broke out into “Hillary, Hillary!” especially in response to lines like, “All of our problems are interconnected, but we treat them as if one were guacamole and one were chips.”