LAS VEGAS STOP: Clinton pitch hits home
People in the Las Vegas neighborhood saw all the cameras and trucks and buses and police on the streets Thursday, and they began to trickle out of their houses to find out what was going on. Soon, as a sherbet-orange desert sunset filled the sky, they got their answer, as New York Sen. Hillary Clinton began walking up the street of low-slung houses near Eastern and Washington avenues, accompanied by the area's representative, state Assemblyman Ruben Kihuen. Clinton hugged Kihuen around the shoulders and asked about his family, and then the two began knocking on doors, the same doors Kihuen knocked on nearly two years ago in his first campaign. Clinton spent more than an hour in the predominantly Hispanic and black neighborhood.
Gilberto Santana, 38, sat on the edge of a chair as Clinton sat on the brown leather sofa in his living room next to his wife and two young children.Santana told Clinton how his wife, Elizabeth, a housekeeper on the Strip, was barely supporting the family single-handedly while he was unable to work for two months because of an operation. "We're sort of struggling," he said. "We're getting there, but you have to be strong to make it."
Clinton asked the couple questions about their mortgage and his disability payments, and answered his questions about immigration and the war and health care costs. Stroking the 4-year-old girl's head, Clinton said, "I feel so strongly that if we don't take care of our children, we don't take care of our future." Santana said, "We are going to do everything we can to make sure that everyone in Las Vegas votes for you."
That is the warm, earnest, human side of campaigning, politicians comforting people with detailed explanations of how they will solve their problems and flattering them with their presence.
There was nobody who didn't know who the Democratic presidential candidate and former first lady was, even if they didn't speak English or weren't old enough to vote. They flocked to her for camera-phone pictures, and she posed in tableaux of adorable multicultural children...
Today, Clinton is scheduled to travel to Los Angeles, where she will give a policy speech about the economy and what kind of stimulus she believes it needs. "I think we're slipping toward a recession," she said. "A couple of people that I met on the street, they work in construction. They tell me it's slowed down." She reiterated her doubts about the caucus process, which requires in-person, on-time participation. "That is troubling to me," she said. "People who work during that amount of time, they're disenfranchised. People who can't be in the state or are in the military, they cannot be present. ... If people feel like there's no reason to participate or they can't, then that's the same thing. So I think it's a problem."
Clinton and her busload of traveling press moved from there to the popular local Mexican restaurant Lindo Michoacan, where a "roundtable" that was actually square passed a microphone around to tell her people's concerns about the mortgage crisis and foreclosures. She took notes and munched on tortilla chips. In broken English, one woman told Clinton how she wasn't making money as a broker anymore. "I have no income at all," she said. "So how will I survive?" Choking up with emotion, the woman said, "In my neighborhood, there are brand-new homes, but the value is nothing. I'm glad you are here so I can tell you, because you're going to be the president, I know." A man shouted through an opening in the wall that his wife was illegal. "No woman is illegal," Clinton said, to cheers. Summing it up at the end, Clinton said, "We've only talked to a few people, but each of them talk about some part of the problem we are confronting. This is a problem that is only going to get worse if we don't address it."