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John L. Smith On Clinton's Plan To Turn Nevada Solidly Blue

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(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greets a member of the audience after speaking at a rally at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016.

The country may be focused on Las Vegas this week for Wednesday’s presidential debate at UNLV, but the Democrats are sighting in the increasingly likely possibility of picking up Senate and House seats in key battleground states -- and as always Nevada is at the top of the list.

John L. Smith took part in a phone conference with Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, who outlined the strategy and added a few surprising states on the Democrats’ wish list.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

What was the point of the presser on Monday?

Really to pump up the volume to show that the Democrats nationally are not only starting to strut their stuff in a few states where they’re heavily favored, but also in those battleground states, they’re starting to put more states in the blue column. The other part I thought was interesting, Mook was also talking about pumping new dollars and campaign staff into new states – for instance Arizona, which is traditionally pretty conservative and now it’s trending much more closely. In Arizona, for instance, there are ads up, couple million dollars being spent, and using John McCain and some of the incendiary language that Donald Trump has used about McCain early in that campaign process against him now.

Now Nevada is becoming a blue state and Arizona is becoming a swing state for this election?

That was the message that they were trying to send. Now, whether that pans out or not, I don’t know. I understand that the latest polls are showing Nevada more comfortable on the side of the Democrats.

 What about the race to replace Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada?

“I think Hillary for America [Hillary Clinton’s Super PAC] is putting money that direction now. Trying to lift the boats as she goes state to state to continue to campaign up until Election Day”

What is the money paying for?

The campaign has got more than 450 offices in the 12 states they’re focused on most. There’s $100 million in play and that buys a lot of ads. But it also buys a lot of face time contact with an increasingly popular candidate. The ticket is naming names. Favored candidates are getting their names associated with the campaign. They’re getting put into ads on television. Put into door to door conversations. The infrastructure of the campaign, which is enormous.

 The big campaign is working to bring in some of these lesser campaigns to augment their footprint.

Are we going to see more Democratic ads on TV?

They are basically moving what they have and moving it to those states where they think they can pull off some upsets. One of the parts of the conversation that I found fascinating, and frankly a little hard to believe, but very interesting is that there’s a million dollars in each of Indiana and Missouri. These are Republican strongholds. That money is going to get out the vote, which means it’s not just a gift to a couple of states. They’re not just throwing their money away. They actually see some movement. It’s fascinating to see that performance pick up as the negative stories come out about Donald Trump and they seem to be sticking.

Are they putting money into the congressional and Senate races here in Nevada?

Yes, money, but most importantly the bodies are going to be devoted. Their people have been coming to the state over the past few weeks, that’s going to continue. You’re going to see a tremendous push to get out the vote. This is where the Democrats under a party banner are different from the Republicans from a fractured party. You’ve got folks in Donald Trump’s camp pushing their candidate. You also have Republican contributors, major contributors – the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, probably a stronger presence in Nevada than the state Republican Party.

Will the push from the Democrats focus on Joe Heck’s disavowal of Donald Trump?

There is no question. That was the gift that keeps on giving for Catherine Cortez Masto. Joe Heck’s association with the Trump campaign – his endorsement and then his unendorsement – was really an opening that was exploited and keeps getting exploited. That’s why Corey Booker is here this week. It’s why Clinton was here last week. It’s why every speech that mentions Masto and Heck mentions the increasingly unhinged Donald Trump, I think Robby Mook said, that is definitely the piñata that everyone wants to hit.

Did you see the Senate debate and what did you think?

I did! I thought both performances were better than average. The questions I thought were good from the folks doing the moderating. I thought Cortez Masto over performed. I don’t find her all that dynamic of a speaker so I thought she was pretty energized. But she had a Trump card to play – as it were- and she did.

I don’t know what’s going on in Joe Heck’s mind right now, but I know he’s scrambling. Because he has been on the stump a lot. He is out there but there is also a report out of Northern Nevada that Heck’s team was up there campaigning and were also passing out Trump bumper stickers. So, he’s unendorsed but he doesn’t seem to have gotten too far from the campaign.    

John L. Smith, commentator

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