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John L. Smith On UNLV's Moment In The Spotlight And The RJ's Trump Endorsement


UNLV had its moment in the sun last week when it hosted the third and final debate in this hotly contested election year. 

And the Las Vegas Review-Journal endorses Republican nominee Donald Trump for president. It is the first, and so far only, major newspaper to endorse Trump for president. 

John L. Smith gives us some insight. 


Have things changed or is Nevada still “in play” in this election season?

I think things have changed. With a couple of weeks to go before the election, you are clearly seeing top Democrats trying to make sure Nevada stays in the win column for them. It works at a bunch of different levels. First of all, of course at the top, with the Clinton campaign, but more so really with Catherine Cortez Masto and Joe Heck. That’s why we saw President Obama here over the weekend to really tout down ticket candidates including Joyce Woodhouse and Nicole Cannizzaro… That just shows how important Nevada is to the Democrats.

This is not something that Pres. Obama would have been asked to do not very long ago:

Political memories are really, really short. I remember about this time last year there was a buzz in the air that no one would want to campaign with Pres. Obama because he was so unpopular. Well guess what, he’s popular! He’s going to be riding out of Washington with pretty high approval ratings. This is really a road show for him.

Word got out Saturday that the Las Vegas Review-Journal was going to be the first daily in a major U.S. city to endorse Donald Trump:

Yes, it did. It might have surprised some, but it sure didn’t surprise me. One of the motivations I believe for the purchase of the paper last December was to be able to endorse a Republican candidate. Hell or high water they managed to do that.

What does this mean for the RJ in terms of a reputation?

I’m not so sure it does much to the RJ. Clearly, the RJ is owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson and there business interest has shown up on the front page. Their push to gather funding for stadium development has been played prominently and has been reported widely.

I think this is just another one of those moments. Honestly, when I read the endorsement, I wasn’t surprised by it. The paper really telegraphed its intensions when it brought on board Wayne Allyn Root, the right-wing firebrand, who is one of the chief birther writers in the country. They brought him on as a news columnist, not an editorial page columnist. Their heart was pretty much on their sleeve on this one.

What did you make of the debate scene at UNLV?

It really pleased me to see UNLV portrayed in such a positive light. They really pulled it off well. I was told they had about 1,000 volunteers to turn out and help out. I was on campus throughout the entire process and it looked to me like things were pretty darn smooth.   

The security issues were tapped down but it wasn’t some show of force. It was pretty casual around the campus. I don’t think they could have asked for more. It was really a showcase for the campus going forward and for Las Vegas as the future… the next site for the next big presidential convention.

What is your take on Las Vegas as a potential home for an NFL franchise?

From the NFL perspective, they had their fall meetings recently, Commissioner Goodell made it pretty clear that this something in the pipeline. It is in the process of being vetted and sorted out. There was some commentary published stating that the commissioner was hypocritical because of course the NFL is a very popular league for sports bettors… and one of the things the commissioner brought up was, ‘we have to work out something with sports betting. It’s a challenge for the league.’ He came out opposed to sports betting on the games.

Now, whether privately he realizes that that is just part of his shtick that he has to present to the public, I think it is that, because clearly Americans tastes and preferences are changing. They are far less apprehensive about sports betting. They don’t see it as the bugaboo it was a generation ago. They’re betting tens of millions of dollars a year on ballgames.

If we were three years down the road and federal law had changed and sports betting were being legalized in New Jersey for instance and some other places that have tried to do it, then the stadium proposal wouldn’t have any issue with the league.

 It is starting to come out that Marc Davis is not that popular among his fellow owners. Could that be a big deal when trying to get a majority to allow him to move from Oakland to Las Vegas?

I know that the Davis family has been controversial for many years. Al Davis was quite the renegade in the league. There’s probably some of that. I’m not all that familiar of his perception by other owners. Other than stories I’ve read about it.

I think their main focus is… the Las Vegas idea is a really great idea. I think they see it as a future gem or jewel in the league, but Oakland is in a major market. It is not a small market. That area is big. It’s got a lot of tradition and frankly, they have a stadium that still has a debt owed from a previous attempt to expand it.

For someone to pull stakes and move, it sounds like a good thing for Las Vegas, depending on your politics on it, but what does it say about the league? I think there is some thought about that. This would be an uncouth moment for the NFL to leave a venue high and dry.  

John L. Smith, contributor 

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