Thursday, May 31, 2007

Obama upbeat about Nevada prospects

By Brendan Riley for the Associated Press:

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama on Thursday shrugged off rival Hillary Rodham Clinton's support in Nevada, arguing that he'll enjoy the same success in attracting the state's rural voters as he did back home in Illinois.

The first-term senator also had kind words for one of Nevada's top industries - gambling.

Nevada "has done a terrific job of regulating the industry. It has become a major growth engine, and I think other people from other states - including my mother-in-law - love to come here," Obama said in a brief interview with The Associated Press.

The candidate met with state lawmakers and campaigned in Nevada, which is second in the primary calendar lineup with caucuses on Jan. 19. He answered a few questions as he greeted patrons at the Comma Coffee shop, located across from the state legislature.

Obama said that while other candidates such as Clinton have more early endorsements in the state, he will catch up with grass-roots support.

"One of the reasons I'm a U.S. senator is that I got strong support from places like southern Illinois where it's about as rural and southern as you get," Obama said. "These are areas back in my home state that are pro-gun, very religious and with low minority populations - and we have consistently done well because I think there is a set of common values that people share."

In his 2004 race against conservative commentator Alan Keyes, an out-of-stater drafted by Illinois Republicans to run after their primary winner dropped out amid a sex scandal, Obama got 70 percent of the vote. He trounced Keyes in all parts of the state - urban, suburban and rural.

Obama added: "If people feel you're respectful and taking the time to talk to them, if you care about the things they care about, then you can do well regardless of what your background is."

Coinciding with her trip to Nevada on Wednesday, Clinton unveiled a list of supporters in Nevada, including former Gov. Bob Miller and black community leaders.

Obama said he wasn't concerned about her endorsements.

"We're still getting known in Nevada. This is my third visit," Obama said. "So it's not surprising that Senator Clinton ... is able to get some of the traditional endorsements."

"We're much more interested in making sure we're reaching out to the ordinary voters like this," he said, referring to the crowd of about 50 in the coffee shop.

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