To all Californian Kossacks preparing for a canvassing trip to the Silver State:
First off, welcome to Nevada! Don't worry, it's not as exotic as you think; many of us came here from California. Think of Las Vegas as what the Inland Empire would look like if you could build casinos everywhere.
And those folks you'll be meeting over the next days and weeks are a lot like those you'll find in the Inland Empire in another respect -- they're looking straight into an economic abyss. They're scared shitless right now.
It is difficult to overstate the severity of Nevada's economic meltdown.
And that makes this fertile ground for a message built on hope.
To understand why Nevadans are shaken so badly, you must first understand a bit about Nevada's history.
Nevada's economy is powered by two engines -- casinos and construction. (Mining is also prominent, but confined to rural Nevada.)
These industries offered a unique proposition -- jobs that offered relatively attractive wages and benefits, but demanded little in educational background or experience. They were also seen as recession-proof industries, as Nevada had weathered previous downturns with little difficulty.
So Nevada became defined by its boomtowns. Hundreds of thousands flooded the state in search of opportunity, and often found it. Opportunity came on every street corner, it seemed.
That has changed.
Nevada's economy is moving into freefall. On Thursday, a panel of state economists projected that Nevada's unemployment rate (now at 7.1%) would reach 8.6% in 2009 -- and stay at that level into 2010.
These numbers would be sobering enough in a "Rust Belt" state used to economic dips and swings. But Nevada is a state where, just two years ago, unemployment stood at 4.2% -- and that led the nation in job creation.
To use an old cliche, this wasn't supposed to happen here.
When facing such a situation, the natural instinct is to flee -- to seek out opportunity elsewhere. But this state, which proved so attractive and inviting a few years ago, is proving damnably hard to escape for many.
Nowhere did the housing bubble reach such epic proportions as the Las Vegas Valley. And nowhere has it crashed harder or faster than this state -- Las Vegas home prices fell 29.9% year-over-year in July, worst of the 20 cities tracked by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.
I'll give you an example of how that translates into the world of a typical resident (yours truly).
Five years ago I purchased my first house in the Las Vegas suburbs. Older house... certainly nothing spectacular.
Two years later I was $150,000 richer -- on paper.
Today I'm back where I started.
And that makes me one of the lucky ones.
The guy who bought next door, two years after I did? Seventy thousand in the hole.
The friend who sought a more affordable option in a older neighborhood three years ago? Down $50,000.
The friends who live across town in a newer neighborhood? Down $100,000.
You get the idea. Fleeing isn't an option with a underwater mortgage hanging around your neck.
Now, the situation is quite similar in California. But the Nevadan mindset is quite different from the Californian, with a deep-rooted suspicion and distrust of government in any form. Anti-tax populism runs strongly here.
I once thought that nothing short of economic catastrophe would shake that mindset. But it appears Nevada has finally reached that point.
Today Nevadans are learning that not paying a state income tax is of little use if you don't have an income.
The tide appears to be turning.
Today Rasmussen issued a poll putting Obama up four points in Nevada (51-47). Within that sample, 62% of Nevadans said the economy was in poor shape; 82% expected it to worsen.
Is that poll an outlier? Nope. Of the four Nevada polls released in the last few days, three gave Obama a lead (the exception coming from the notorious ARG).
Pollster's current estimate: Obama by +0.3%.
In Nevada, it really is all about the economy.
We're a state accustomed to riding a hot streak. That's now come to a crashing end -- and we're scared. And we're trapped.
Nevadans want to hear how we're going to get the economy moving again. How will we create jobs? How will we assist the middle class?
We need hope.
As you knock on each door, expect fear and despair.
Ask each Nevadan you meet -- are you better off now than you were four years ago? Eight years ago?
And give them a reason to hope for better days ahead.
Our five electoral votes aren't much... but they're there for the taking.
Friday, October 3, 2008
As you Knock On Nevada's Doors, Give Hope.....
A great piece on DailyKos.com for our friends traveling to Nevada for GOTV.....
Posted by Marta Evry at Friday, October 03, 2008