Obama to Elko next month; UNR to sponsor presidential forum
RENO (AP) – Sen. Barack Obama plans a campaign stop in rural Elko in early August and he and the other top three Democratic presidential candidates are being courted to attend a forum later in the month at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Obama, D-Ill., will visit Elko on Aug. 5 as part of a “rural American listening tour,” campaign officials said Wednesday.
Democratic candidates, particularly presidential candidates, traditionally spend little time campaigning in the Republican-dominated rural parts of Nevada, including Elko County.
Last month, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was the first Democratic presidential candidate to visit Elko in 50 years, said Lance Whitney, chairman of the Elko County Democrats.
In 2004, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid complained that John Kerry’s disregard for rural America cost him the presidency.
“It was very disappointing to see how John Kerry completely ignored people he really shouldn’t have,” Whitney said. “Republicans visit all the time.”
Obama said on Tuesday he understands the importance of campaigning throughout Nevada, not just in Las Vegas and Clark County. He has opened a campaign office in Elko.
“Look, John Kerry won overwhelmingly in Clark County,” Obama told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “But he lost overwhelmingly in those rural communities. If you lose in predominantly Republican rural areas by 2-to-1, that’s real different than losing 5-to-1.”
The Aug. 22 event planned at UNR is co-sponsored by the Washington D.C.-based Brookings Institution and ABC News. In an attempt to give candidates more time to discuss issues, organizers have invited only the top four in the national polls – Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.; Obama and Richardson.
None of the campaigns has responded to the invitations sent Friday.
“We don’t want to have a debate, and we don’t want to have sound bites,” said Melissa Skolfield, spokeswoman for the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan public policy think tank. “What we would like to offer the candidates is a chance to talk for 20 or 30 minutes about the issues.”
Organizers also want to schedule a forum for Republican candidates at UNR. No date has been announced.
Nevada’s second-in-the-nation presidential caucuses are set for Jan. 19, 2008.