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Analysis: Vegas has become a political boomtown

  • Story Highlights
  • Las Vegas is the fast growing congressional district
  • Newcomers include young families, retirees, Hispanics, Asian-Americans
  • Area has become more Democratic in last 20 years
  • Nevada could be a bellwether for 2008 presidential elections
  • Next Article in Politics »
By Bill Schneider
CNN senior political analyst
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LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) -- What's new in Las Vegas? Everything -- including the politics!

Las Vegas is a boomtown, literally. Take Tuesday night's giant implosion of the Frontier Hotel. It was the Las Vegas Strip's first themed casino. It went up in 1942 and came down at 2:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m. ET) Tuesday.

Elvis Presley and Siegfried and Roy made their Vegas debuts at the Frontier, and Ronald Reagan performed there.

Now it's being replaced by -- what else? A $5 billion development modeled after New York City's Plaza Hotel.

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But not for long.

This is a town where everything changes -- fast.

Las Vegas's Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democrat, points out, "I've got the fastest growing congressional district in the United States with 1.9 million people. We have 5,000 new residents a month coming into town."

Who are all those people?

Democrats do Vegas
The Democratic candidates lay their cards on the table in Las Vegas with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Thursday, 8 p.m. ET

They're young people with families, taking new jobs in the booming service sector. They're retirees, veterans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.

"We build a school a month in order to keep up with the growth," Berkley said, noting that her congressional district also has the fastest growing senior population.

"I've got 212,000 veterans here in the Las Vegas Valley," Berkley said, in addition to the fastest growing Asian and Hispanic populations.

You've heard how the American labor movement is struggling to survive? Not here.

Berkley says Las Vegas is "the only community in the United States that has a growing union population."

The politics are changing, too. Until the 1980s, Nevada tended to vote Democratic. It's the Silver State. William Jennings Bryan, the candidate of "free silver," carried it three times. New Deal Democrats like Lyndon Johnson did well here.

The population boom of the 1970s and '80s brought a lot of new voters. Mostly white, mostly Reagan Republicans.

Now with a new population boom, it's changing again.

"We have recently flipped the state and there are now more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state of Nevada." Berkley said.

Who's this "we?" Vegas, baby, Vegas.

"Seventy percent of the state population is located here in southern Nevada. We've dramatically changed the state," she says.

With just five electoral votes, why is Nevada significant?

It's a bellwether. Nevada has voted for the winner in every presidential election since 1912, save one -- 1976.

What happens in Vegas may happen everywhere. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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