NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

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!

Tags: Jack Carter, John Ensign, Nevada, rural, Senate (all tags)



Re: NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

Keep up the good work, Sarah.  Your dad would make a hell of a Senator.  I'm recommending this one!

Glad to see that the Washoe County meeting had the biggest turnout.  Your dad will have to beat Ensign in that county to win this one, I think.  (Assuming that Clark County goes for your dad in more or less the same way that it went for Kerry.)

by HellofaSandwich 2006-03-12 11:02PM | 0 recs
As another Ex Georgian

living in Florida by way of Sacramento, I have been following your postings and enjoy them. Please keep posting.

by molly bloom 2006-03-13 03:18AM | 0 recs
Re: As another Ex Georgian

Agreed. These are my favorite campaign updates.

by blogswarm 2006-03-13 07:12AM | 0 recs
Re: NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

Please do keep us updated, Sarah. My brother lives in LV and I know he'll be voting for your dad. We can win back the Senate with strong candidates like Jack Carter.

by KB 2006-03-13 05:03AM | 0 recs
Re: NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

He need to campaign heavily in the Carson City, and Henderson area, and the White Pine area, those were the last areas to shift from Clinton to Bush and they are vulnerable to the recapturing of Dem support in the next election cycles of 2006 and 2008. Carson City has a lot of gambling just like Vegas and the people in those areas are not clear conserv they are moderates.  In the White Pine area, there are Indian tribes that are not always conservatives in their viewpoints, look at North and South Dakota, those Indian tribes vote Democratic sometimes.  

by mleflo2 2006-03-13 05:07AM | 0 recs

We're really glad that Tessa Hafen is running in CD-02 (which includes Henderson).  If she can help us pull some Democrats to the polls, we'll be in great shape.


by Sarah R Carter 2006-03-13 07:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Henderson

Actually, Tessa Hafen is running in CD-03. But it does include Henderson, NV.

CD-02 could be competitive too, as Gibbons is running for Governor.

by RBH 2006-03-14 01:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Henderson

Arrg.  Typo.  And yes, CD-02 will also be competitive with Democrat Jill Derby looking like a pretty good candidate.


by Sarah R Carter 2006-03-14 03:05PM | 0 recs
Re: NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

Hi Sarah, Wyoming's Governor Freudenthal's daughter also went a lot 'on the road with him during his successful '02 run. You should reach out to her (Hillary) for some good tips. She did an unbelievable job at really being the first campaign blogger ever, and she would catalog everything (photos & entries) by county on the website, and people (Wyoming is small) throughout the campaign would come and see her doing this on the site. It was an impressive method of her helping out, and I think something similar would have an even bigger impact today (using things like video) and with more web users.

by Jerome Armstrong 2006-03-13 05:21AM | 0 recs
Thanks for the tip!

I didn't know about that -- it sounds like she would be a good resource.


by Sarah R Carter 2006-03-13 06:09AM | 0 recs
Re: NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

Well I thought that White Pine and Mineral counties were somewhat friendly to Democrats. I think Clinton might have won one of them once or twice.

by jiacinto 2006-03-13 01:51PM | 0 recs
Re: NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

This is great stuff, Sarah.

by Matt Stoller 2006-03-13 03:50PM | 0 recs
Re: NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

Sarah, your dad was great Saturday at the Washoe County Democratic Convention.  He is getting better all the time.

I fully expect an upset is in the making in the Nevada Senate race.

by Susan Nunes 2006-03-13 04:50PM | 0 recs
Re: NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

Interesting strategy.  Usually, nobody does more than token work outside of the Reno and Clark County areas, because 90% of the votes are there, and they figure it's too much work to do all that travelling for such a little potential payoff.  Same reason Presidential candidates aren't willing to fight in states with small populations and high political biases one way or another--like Vermont or the Dakotas--where they'd have to do a lot of convincing for just three electoral votes.  They figure the time and effort would be better spent in states with a lot more votes.  A lot of guys would be thinking, let's spend all our time in Clark County, and try for 55% of the vote there, which would be enough to offset big losses everywhere else.

But those rural counties add up, don't they?

My home state of Oregon is a lot like that.  We're a blue state with one big metro area and a few smaller cities along I-5 that all go heavily for the Democrats.  By rights we should dominate the state.  But we also have a huge sprawling rural swath where Republicans tend to get 80% of the vote, and that alone makes the GOP still competitive here.  If the Democrats reached out enough to bring the Republican advantage out there down even to a still overwhelming 70%, we'd never have to worry about a statewide race ever again.  But they don't do it.  If they did, and if as a result the "solid" red rural area changed, even slightly to "leaning" Republican, then it would no longer effectively counter the solid Democratic metro region.

What your dad is doing MUST be done by someone, eventually, if Nevada is ever going to be a firmly blue state.  And it's going to be rough, and there will be rabid right wingers who will be unimaginably cruel.  It will be important to remember that you don't need them all, just a few of them.  If you can raise the vote total to just 30% in places like Elko--a whopping 70% still instinctively hating all Democrats--then Jack Carter will join Majority Leader Reid in Washington DC.

by admiralnaismith 2006-03-14 07:03AM | 0 recs
Re: NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

We're pretty optimistic about the strategy.  And we're certainly not conceding Clark County, either.    We're planning on focusing heavily on voter registration and GOTV in Vegas, and Dad will spend plenty of time there.

by Sarah R Carter 2006-03-14 11:17AM | 0 recs
You know that Nevada is Trending Democratic

acctully the margin between Bush-Gore is greater than Bush-Kerry. And I belive along with Colorado and New Mexico will go Dem. in 2008.

by Liberal 2006-03-14 04:53PM | 0 recs
Re: NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

Sarah - Is the DSCC going to help out in this race? I know a lot of people in the Beltway have written this off as a second-tier race, but the demographics are looking pretty good. All your dad needs is the money, and he can win.

by TrueBlueDem 2006-03-14 07:05PM | 0 recs
Re: NV-Sen -- Carter in "the Rurals"

I think they are writing it off.  Reid seems pretty half-hearted about it, given his longstanding "truce" with Ensign (though that still didn't stop him from publicly courting Oscar Goodman).  I think that Carter's relying on non-DSCC sources for funding, including a few fundraisers hosted by his dad (not a bad guy to have fundraising for you, I guess) and netroots support.

by HellofaSandwich 2006-03-14 07:45PM | 0 recs
Do you actually believe the nonsense

you write?

Is there evidence of the seat being written off?  No.  Is there evidence Reid supports a loser like Oscar Goodman, a man who can't raise any money at all outside of the state?  No.  Is there any evidence Reid doesn't support Carter?  No, for those rumors were lies perpetrated by the media.

by Susan Nunes 2006-03-14 08:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Do you actually believe the nonsense

I honestly hope it's nonsense, Susan. :)

I just like to aim my expectations low so I don't get my hopes up.

(As for the evidence that Reid supports a loser like Goodman, I recall an AP article on Yahoo News saying that Reid was hopeful that Goodman would enter the race... and this was well after Carter jumped in.)

by HellofaSandwich 2006-03-14 08:49PM | 0 recs


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