Clinton hopes early vote will seal Nevada victory

New polls are good news for Clinton and Trump
New polls are good news for Clinton and Trump

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    New polls are good news for Clinton and Trump

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New polls are good news for Clinton and Trump 01:50

Story highlights

  • The key to Hillary Clinton's strategy in the battleground of Nevada: Clark County
  • Nevada offers a rare window into campaigns' ground games in the final days of the election

Las Vegas (CNN)On video displays at the MGM Grand casino last week, Marcel Garcia watched the stock market drop when news broke that Hillary Clinton could face more FBI scrutiny over her private email server.

Later that day, the 38-year-old gaming surveillance staffer watched stocks climb back up as if nothing had happened.
    "This is entertainment value -- like bad reality shows," Garcia said after he voted for Clinton on Saturday.
    In Nevada, the political world faces two separate realities. Polls are finding Donald Trump tied or even leading Clinton. Yet the state's early voting data shows Clinton with a clear lead.
    Ahead of Tuesday's election, Clinton's campaign is aiming to put this battleground state on ice by ramping up such a lead that Trump can't catch her on Election Day. The campaign hopes Nevada will prove its heavy investment in field organizing was worthwhile -- and serve as a harbinger for higher-than-expected Latino turnout that could carry the Democratic nominee to victory in key states such as Florida, Colorado and Arizona.

    Clark County

    The key to this strategy: Clark County, the home of Las Vegas and more than two-thirds of Nevada's active registered voters.
    Trump can afford to lose Clark County by about 6 percentage points -- as long as he bests Clinton in Washoe County, home of Reno, and, as expected, runs up a huge margin in rural counties -- according to a Republican official who wasn't authorized to publicly discuss internal modeling.
    To date, Trump is missing that target.
    Early vote data based on party affiliation and published by the Nevada secretary of state's office shows that as of Tuesday morning, Democrats in Clark County are besting Republicans in early voting by 13.6 points -- or 48,000 votes. (Not all of those Democrats necessarily voted for Clinton, nor all Republicans for Trump.)
    That Democratic lead is in large part due to an increasingly diverse electorate.
    Though the state doesn't provide ethnic breakdowns, party officials and liberal groups are bullish -- almost risking overconfidence -- that Latino, Asian-American and Pacific Islander turnout will soar past 2012 levels. That would help make up for the decline in African-American turnout that Democrats are seeing across the nation.
    "We've been very focused on making sure we're turning out diverse communities, and I think you can see that," Jorge Neri, Clinton's Nevada state director, said in an interview.

    2016 vs. 2012

    Thanks to the state's rules, Nevada offers a rare window into campaigns' ground games in the final days of the election.
    Every day, Nevada officials offer online updates of the numbers of registered Democrats and Republicans who have cast their ballots. Unlike states such as North Carolina and Ohio, Nevada has not significantly changed its early voting rules in recent election cycles. And early voting is popular in the state, with about 7 in 10 Nevada voters casting their ballots (mostly in person, though some by absentee ballots) before Election Day in 2012.
    That offers an opportunity to make apples-to-apples, day-by-day comparisons to previous years.
    What that comparison shows: Democrats are on track to match the results in Nevada of 2012 -- when President Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by nearly 7 percentage points.
    Already, as of Tuesday morning, 511,000 Nevadans had voted -- more than one-third of the state's nearly 1.5 million active voters, and potentially as much as half those who will actually participate in 2016.
    Of those, 43% are Democrats and 37% are Republicans. That means 31,000 more registered Democrats have voted than Republicans -- a 6-point edge that tracks with early vote numbers at the same point in the 2012 race.
    It has Democrats talking openly about putting Nevada far enough out of reach ahead of November 8.
    "I would wager in Nevada turnout is so strong among Democrats there Hillary could build an insurmountable lead in the coming days," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

    Clinton's Culinary help

    A key ally for Democrats is the Culinary Union Local 226.
    Representing Las Vegas casino workers -- dealers, housekeepers, cooks and more -- it is perhaps the nation's most politically influential labor union in its region. Its hundreds of thousands of members are intensely engaged in years-long voter registration and turnout efforts.
    And in part because of Trump's vague stance on health reform, the union is backing Clinton -- and seeking to turn its diverse membership against Trump.
    On Saturday morning, a raucous band with a djembe player and dancers fired up more than 150 Culinary Union volunteers ahead of a massive door-to-door effort concentrated largely on the heavily Latino northern portion of the city.
    The red t-shirts union members wore were unambiguous, saying in large letters across the front: "DEFEAT TRUMP."
    Victor Juarez, a 54-year-old cook at Circus Circus casino who volunteers regularly and knocks on 60 to 70 doors per day, said he's seen race-fueled fights on the Las Vegas streets.
    "The anger, the hate -- the people that argue and say, 'Get out of here. Don't speak another language,' because they see you're a different color," he said, are fueled by "what Trump says on TV."
    Antonia Guadarrama, a 28-year-old housekeeper at Planet Hollywood, knocked Trump for refusing to negotiate with protesting laborers at his Trump Hotel in Las Vegas -- a beaming golden fixture along the Strip.
    "He doesn't want to come to the negotiating table and help out people like me, my mother and my family," she said.
    Guadarrama raised concerns about Trump's business record across the country, saying he is "a candidate who's running for office who has business here in Las Vegas -- and there are many other states where they're going through the same struggle, with a person who's their boss running for president."

    Republicans remain optimistic

    Trump and Republicans aren't buying it that the Silver State is out of reach.
    The RNC has nine offices with 67 paid staffers in the state -- fewer than the Clinton campaign's 16 field offices, but a competitive presence.
    Republicans have also had outside help -- though much of it focused on the state's competitive Senate race -- from the Koch brothers-funded Americans For Prosperity and the Libre Initiative, which courts Latino voters.
    Chris Carr, the Republican National Committee's political director, said increases in Nevada's early votes are "pretty much a wash" compared to 2012.
    "We both have seen a big leap in terms of raw votes," he said.

    Last-minute push

    Clinton and Labor Secretary Tom Perez are set to kick off a canvassing effort at the Plumbers & Pipefitters Training Center in Las Vegas on Wednesday afternoon.
    Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, will be in Carson City and Reno campaigning for Clinton on Wednesday. And on Thursday, Bill Clinton will join musician Steve Aoki at UNLV.
    The visits are carefully targeted around a key goal: Driving up early vote turnout in the final three days, since Nevada's polls close for the weekend before Election Day.
    The Trump campaign has sent Trump himself, running mate Mike Pence, son Eric Trump and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to Nevada in recent days. But no high-profile surrogate visits have been announced for the campaign's final week.
    There is some anecdotal evidence that Trump's get-out-the-vote efforts are missing the mark.
    On Tuesday, Chris Miller -- the chairman of the Clark County Democrats -- said he got a call from a Trump campaign volunteer.
    It was an ominous sign for the GOP's list of targets for two reasons: Miller is obviously not going to support the party's candidates. And, he said, he's already voted.