By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 22, 2010; 10:01 PM
LAS VEGAS - With his party's control of Congress hanging in the balance, President Obama touched down here Friday night to help bail out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), an ally now locked in a dead heat with a heroine of the tea party movement.
"You know, Harry's not the flashiest guy, let's face it," Obama told 9,000 people gathered on a middle-school playing field. "Harry kind of speaks in a soft voice. He doesn't move real quick. He doesn't get up and make big stem-winding speeches. But Harry Reid does the right thing.
"Harry Reid has never forgotten what it's like to grow up in Searchlight, Nevada," Obama continued. "He knows what it's like to be poor. He knows what it's like to work hard. He knows what it's like sometimes to hit some bumps in the road. . . . Because he remembers where he came from, it means that he thinks every single day about, 'How am I gonna give the folks in Nevada a better shot in life.' "
This was Obama's fourth rally in three days, continuing a mad-dash campaign sprint that has already carried the president to Oregon, Washington and California. Next, it will take him to Minnesota on Saturday for a college-campus rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.
At every stop, Obama has implored his party's base to vote in the Nov. 2 midterm elections, saying Democrats can "defy the conventional wisdom."
As he did earlier Friday at the University of Southern California, in a rally that drew some 37,500 people, Obama warned the Las Vegas crowd that Republicans in control of Congress would return to the economic policies of the past decade.
"We tried that for eight years and it didn't work, so why would we buy that snake oil now?" Obama said.
The president said Republicans are "betting on all of you having amnesia."
"Let me tell you, Las Vegas, you have not forgotten," Obama exhorted. "I have not forgotten. We are not going to buy what they are selling. That is the choice we've got in this election."
For Obama, returning to Nevada was personal. He campaigned in this state some 22 times during his run for president two years ago. And Reid has been a mentor since Obama arrived in the Senate in 2004.
As Reid has struggled in his reelection bid this year, Obama has been a constant and unwavering supporter. So when he stepped out on stage, with U2's "City of Blinding Lights" thumping from the loudspeakers, Obama joined hands with Reid.
"It is good to be back in Vegas!" Obama said. "It is good to be back in Nevada! I am fired up! Are you fired up?"
In his speech, Reid assailed his Republican opponent, Sharron Angle, over controversial comments she has made throughout the campaign. A former boxer, Reid said he is fighting to return jobs to this state, which has been among the hardest-hit during the recession.
"Nevadans are fighting a tough fight," Reid said. "But we never give up, do we, Nevadans? And let me tell you, we're going to bounce back stronger than ever. There are three important issues on my mind and your mind: Jobs, jobs and jobs. The single most important part of my job is to create jobs."