Bellwether Nevada: 'If we go with Donald … that's probably how the country's going to go'
State's percentage of whites with no college education exactly matches the national average
To be a Democrat in Henderson, Nev., is to be on a blue island in a red sea. In the last federal election, 15 of the 16 counties surrounding the city voted Republican — and they're not afraid to throw their weight around.
"There was a sign on my mailbox one day written in marker: 'Hillary for prison,'" Democrat Norma Unger said Monday. "I'm terrified!"
That's why she decided to found a chapter of the national social group Drinking Liberally in Henderson. Every week, several dozen Democrats get together at a local bar to commiserate over cocktails.
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Halifax's Julie Osborn is among three Canadian dual citizens at this gathering, sharing their fears of a Trump presidency.
"Trump's followers are aggressive, bullies," she said in an interview. "It's almost like a modern-day Hitler."
Every single theme, every single narrative that we've heard ever since the primaries, we see that played out in Nevada.- Dan Lee
And yet, Nevada voted above the national average for Obama in 2012, and the state's Democratic Party has a huge advantage in voter registration. In Nevada, as in almost all the swing states, polls indicate Clinton and Trump are neck and neck. According to Osborn, it wasn't supposed to be this close.
"With the number of supporters I see, it's a concern, it really is," she said. "It's so close that it's enough to make me nervous."
Nevada is only worth six electoral college votes, but every swing state could be crucial. And according to Dan Lee, political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, history suggests that whoever wins here in November will likely be moving into the Oval Office in January.
"Over the past 100 years, Nevada has supported the eventual winning candidate every time except for once back in 1976," said Lee. In that year, the state supported Republican incumbent Gerald Ford over Democrat Jimmy Carter, who won the presidency.
"What's interesting about Nevada is pretty much every single theme, every single narrative that we've heard ever since the primaries and even up through the general election, we see that played out in Nevada," Lee said.
Nevada is a reliable bellwether, because in many ways its population reflects much of the country. Here, as he has in many states, Trump has tapped into frustration with the changing economy. The state's percentage of whites with no college education exactly matches the national average. And according to Lee, that's Trump's key constituency.
"So that demographic balance shifted towards Trump and it has helped him keep pace with Clinton in the race," he says.
Republicans, too, are aware of Nevada's history as an almost infallible electoral Nostradamus.
"If we go with Donald, and he's the elected person for Nevada, that's probably how the country's going to go," said Dwight Mazzone, chairman of the Clark County Republican Party, in an interview.
He says the Access Hollywood tapes and accusations of sexual misconduct haven't hurt Trump's popularity in Clark County. Too many people, he says, have bigger issues, like the economy.
"I'm the guy that gets those phone calls," Mazzone said. "I hear the tenor of their voice, I hear their concerns, how are they going to be able to survive?"
But again reflecting a national pattern, Nevada's Republican political party is a house divided. Its Republican Senate candidate recently announced Trump should drop out.
"Because of the tape that came out, he withdrew his support of Mr. Trump," Mazzone said. He adds that co-ordination between the Republican party and the Trump campaign hasn't been optimal.
"If you just watch the news you kind of get the dichotomy of the two," Mazzone said.
Clinton has been bombarding the state with ads. And Mazzone admitted the Democrats have a much more sophisticated get-out-the-vote campaign.
"They've had a better ground game for years and years and years, but that's just the way they work," he said.
If they show up
And working against the Republicans — here and in many states — there is a growing Latino population that's solidly behind Clinton, said Ted Jelen, political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
If they show up at the polls, that is.
"The big thing is turnout, turnout, turnout, turnout," Jelen said. "If 70 per cent of the eligibles vote, Clinton wins in a walk away; 55 per cent turnout, Trump wins very comfortably."
If that happens, Osborn and the other expats sitting around the bar in Henderson say they have their escape route north already mapped.
They raise their glasses. A toast.
"To Hillary!" Osborn says.