NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"
by Sarah R Carter, Sun Mar 12, 2006 at 10:01:12 PM EST
As many of you know, my Dad, Jack Carter, is running for US Senate in Nevada against Republican incumbent John Ensign. A few weeks ago, I wrote a diary (here) about the events surrounding his offical Announcement (his speech transcript can be found here). Today, I'm going to tell you about a whirlwind tour in which we went to five Democratic County Conventions in one day, all of them in Northern Nevada. At each of the events, Dad told the crowd why he was very optimistic about the race - it all to do with his rural strategy. I'll break it down for you.
For me, the journey started on Friday afternoon, when my husband and I left San Francisco to drive up to Reno. With no traffic and in good weather, it should take fewer than four hours. Of course, the traffic was bad and the weather was worse. We drove over Donner Pass with our tire chains on, going about 20 mph, and we arrived in Reno about nine hours after we had left San Francisco. We checked in to the hotel and went straight to bed.
After meeting up with Dad at breakfast, we started out on Saturday morning heading to Virginia City, where the Storey County Democratic Convention was taking place. This was by far the most picturesque place we were going to go that day. It looked like it was straight out of an old Western movie, with wooden plank sidewalks and beautiful mountain scenery. The convention was actually taking place in the upstairs ballroom of the Delta Saloon, which had small stained-glass chandeliers and old slot machines. There was an old dog asleep on the floor by the bar. The upstairs ballroom was very nice, but somewhat less interesting. There were about 25 people there, and Dad was very well-received.
He told them that, having grown up in Plains, GA (population 650), he was very comfortable in rural areas. He said, "This is my briarpatch." He explained the rural mindset by saying that folks in rural areas are used to living with people they disagree with. And when you decide that you just shouldn't talk about religion or politics or whatever, you chat about everything else, and it's easy to find that you're actually a lot alike.
Dad then explained his optimism about the race. He compared his race to the Kerry-Bush race in 2004. Here's where I can explain it in more detail than Dad could give those folks at the Delta Saloon:
In 2004, Bush won Nevada with 51% of the vote to Kerry's 48%. The state is basically split between Las Vegas (Clark County) and everywhere else. Las Vegas accounts for 66% of the vote, and Kerry won in that county (52% to 46%). The problem is that he lost so badly in the rest of the state that he ended up losing the election.
Here's a closer look. This lists the counties in order of decreasing Kerry votes (source):
Bush Kerry # Voters
Clark County (Las Vegas) 46% 52% 545,397
Washoe (Reno) 51 47 159,079
Carson City 57 41 23,009
Storey (Virginia City) 58 40 2,168
Nye 58 39 14,528
Douglas (Minden) 64 35 23,892
Lyon (Silver Springs) 65 35 17,151
Mineral 65 33 2,327
White Pine 68 28 3,802
Pershing 70 28 1,917
Churchill 72 26 10,237
Humboldt 73 25 5,366
Esmeralda 76 20 480
Eureka 77 20 738
Lincoln 77 20 2,047
Lander 78 20 2,053
Elko 78 20 15,302
Total 51% 48% 829,132
As you can tell, those smaller counties were pretty hostile towards Kerry (yes, I know - understatement of the year).
I think Dad can do a lot better than Kerry did, particularly in those rural counties. To us, those counties are the "low-hanging fruit." It looks like the 20% support that Kerry got is pretty much rock bottom for a Democratic candidate. Dad can do better out there for two reasons: 1) he's a rural guy himself (and frankly, he's just more appealing than Kerry); and 2) he's willing to go out there and ask for their votes. Democrats have been too reluctant to even talk to these people.
I remember reading a diary at Dailykos about Mudcat Saunders, who pointed out that when you can get a traditionally Republican voter to vote for a Democrat, that's worth two votes: you get one for the Democrat and you take one away from the Republican. We can do that.
The last thing he said to those folks at the Delta Saloon was that he was going to spend one day a week in rural areas to go after those votes. Then we took off and went to the next event.
Over the next few hours, we went to County Conventions in Lyon County, in Carson City, and in Douglas County. Each of those conventions had about 50 people, and Dad gave similar speeches at each, giving some background about himself, and outlining his reasons for optimism. It was really cool to go around to these small Nevada towns and see all these dedicated Democrats, meeting in schools, showing their enthusiasm, and planning the future of the party.
The last stop was in Reno (Washoe County), and it was by far the largest meeting. There were posters and pamplets and volunteer sign-up sheets and people milling around chatting while others were listening to speeches being given by local candidates. When Dad's name was called, he got a standing ovation, and everyone stopped to listen. He told them the same thing he'd told everyone else. When he introduced me (I was standing in the back, as usual), and told everyone that I am working on my PhD in neuroscience, he added that, with his degree in physics, and a daughter in biology, he definitely believed in evolution. Everyone applauded, and it warmed my scientist heart.
It was a great day. Dad has been laying the foundation for a successful campaign, and by paying attention to those rural areas, he'll be the next Senator from Nevada. You all can help out the campaign by going to the website, donating money, and by signing up for email updates.
Thanks for reading and let me know what you think!