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Democratic Presidential Hopefuls Bring High Energy, Appeal To Unity To Nevada Voters

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (left) jokes with Former Massachusetts Governor and newly-announced Presidential candidate, Deval Patrick (right).
Noah Glick
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New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (left) jokes with Former Massachusetts Governor and newly-announced Presidential candidate, Deval Patrick (right).

Fourteen Democratic presidential candidates gathered in Las Vegas Sunday to make their pitch to Nevada voters.

The Mountain West News Bureau’s Noah Glick covered the event and chatted with KUNR about it.

KUNR: Tell me about the event and what you saw.

Glick: Sure, as you know, Nevada is the first Western state to take part in the primary or caucus process. The Democratic Party of Nevada hosted an event called "The First in the West." It had pretty much everyone in Nevada politics there—at least from the Democratic side. You had 14 presidential candidates, both Nevada senators were here, Governor Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford. It was a real who’s who of Nevada Democrats.

The event itself was at the Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip, and it was mostly attended by campaign staffers and supporters. It didn’t feel like there were a ton of undecided voters there, although I was able to chat with a few of them.

The event gave each candidate a chance to deliver a ten-minute speech to the crowd. No debating at this one.

The one thing I’ll say about the event overall is the energy. There was this sort of lightheartedness around the whole thing. There wasn’t the usual kind of infighting that we’ve gotten used to seeing in the debates. This event felt more like it was all about uniting people, and kind of felt more like the Democratic Convention.

To give you an example, before the event even started, there were drum lines for both the former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris campaigns.

California Senator Kamala Harris joins her supporters at the First in the West Caucus Event, as they cheer and a drum line performs.
Credit Noah Glick
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California Senator Kamala Harris joins her supporters at the First in the West Caucus Event, as they cheer and a drum line performs.

Another campaign that really stood out for its energy was that of Andrew Yang and his "Yang Gang," the nickname given to his supporters. Many were dressed in matching hats with the word Math across the top, a nod to his line about being “an Asian who likes math.” And one of his supporters was even dressed in a giant robot costume, called the Yangbot.

One Andrew Yang supporter dressed as the "Yangbot FD1000," a nod to the candidate's $1,000 Freedom Dividend proposal that would give all eligible Americans $1,000 a month.
Credit Noah Glick
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One Andrew Yang supporter dressed as the "Yangbot FD1000," a nod to the candidate's $1,000 Freedom Dividend proposal that would give all eligible Americans $1,000 a month.

But, all the campaign supporters were in full form and cheered their hearts out for their candidate. And most of them left once their candidate was done speaking.

What about the candidates? What were their messages to Nevadans?

The candidates didn’t exactly say anything we haven’t already heard from the campaigns. But it did seem like candidates were much more focused on unity and broadcasting a more positive message to voters.

But there was a common theme that couldn’t be ignored: the importance of beating President Donald Trump in the general election. Joe Biden, who is leading the race in Nevada according to the latest polls, touted his experience and electability.

“It’s not going to be easy, so we better be real careful about who we nominate. Because the risk of nominating someone who wouldn’t beat Trump is a nation and a world that our children and grandkids won’t want to live in,” Biden said.

Overall, it was a lot of the same stump speeches we’ve seen from the campaigns up to this point. But I will say that there was a room full of reporters ready to talk to the candidates, and only three of them took questions: Colorado Senator Michael Bennett, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro.

Was there anything that caught your attention or surprised you?

Actually one of the more interesting moments of the day came before the reception got started. When speaking to reporters, former Nevada Senator Harry Reid said that Iowa and New Hampshire should not be the first states to vote.

"I don’t think it matters what happens in New Hampshire or Iowa, because those states are not representative of our country anymore,” Reid said.

I should note that Reid also said he won’t endorse any candidate before the caucus.

But his statement echoes a similar one made earlier by Julian Castro. Speaking to reporters at the event last night, he reiterated his stance that early voting states should be rotated.

“Nothing against Iowa, nothing against New Hampshire, the people have been wonderful. I’ve said that many times. I believe they can still play an important role in the process, but I also believe that it’s time to give other states a chance to go first,” Castro said.

I should also point out here that the prospect of Nevada moving up in the order is very unlikely. But many candidates touted the growth and diversity of the state as a good testing ground for campaigns, and they say Nevada is more reflective of the country as a whole.

Noah Glick is a reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau.

Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
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