With thousands of new residents arriving in what once was reliably Republican Nevada, Kerry was tempted to try to duplicate Bill Clinton's two victories in a state that Bush carried by four percentage points last time.
Kerry seemingly had several advantages -- an energized labor movement in Las Vegas, growing numbers of Latinos and blacks, and the enthusiastic backing of Sen. Harry M. Reid. Most of all, Kerry had a ready-made issue in the Bush administration's support of making Yucca Mountain a nuclear storage dump for the whole country. However, he looks to be coming up a bit short.
Combined tallies of early and absentee voting in heavily Democratic Clark County (Las Vegas) and normally Republican Washoe County (Reno) showed a Democratic advantage of 9,000 ballots. Democrats professed satisfaction, because the turnouts in 2000 in the two most populous counties had been almost dead-even. But Republicans said the margin was smaller than their opponents need to win the state for Kerry, when the rural vote is factored in. Republicans always win outside Las Vegas, but hope to do particularly well this year, with cattlemen and mining interests strongly opposed to Kerry's environmental policies.
Bush has led by three to five points in almost every public poll, but Democrats claim their tracking showed it a tie, even before Clinton came in Friday to argue that Kerry's election would stop the Yucca Mountain project.
Cheney will do rebuttal rallies in both Las Vegas and Reno on Monday, and the GOP seems rather confident the state will go for Bush.
Reid, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, has only nominal opposition from anti-gay activist Richard Ziser.