Obama Swoops In To Rescue West Coast Incumbents

President Barack Obama wraps up his big West Coast campaign swing today. NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro brings us the highlights, including Friday's big rally in Las Vegas for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

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President Obama today wraps up his longest trip of the mid-term election season. He has headlined huge rallies for Democrats in six cities over the last four days, mostly along the West Coast. He'll make one more campaign stop in Minneapolis on his way home this afternoon.

NPR's Ari Shapiro is traveling with the president.

ARI SHAPIRO: The fact that California Senator Barbara Boxer needs President Obama's help in the final days before the election pretty much says it all.

President BARACK OBAMA: Barbara is somebody who's got more fight in her than anybody I know. And she's always fighting for the right reason.

SHAPIRO: During a fundraiser at a huge rally in Los Angeles yesterday, President Obama warned Democrats that if they don't turn out to help keep Boxer in office, his party could lose the Senate.

President OBAMA: She's fought for you for a long time. Now she's got to see you fight for her over these last couple of weeks. We have to have Barbara back in the Senate.

SHAPIRO: Just two years ago, Democrats were on the march in historically red states. This year, Republicans have brought the fight to Democrats' home turf.

Boxer was first elected to the Senate in 1992. It was dubbed the Year of the Woman because 24 new women were elected to Congress. The number of female senators tripled from two to six. This year she faces her toughest re-election test against Republican Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard.

Republicans have also nominated a woman challenger next door in Nevada, where Tea Party-backed candidates Sharon Angle is in virtual tie with the man at the top of the Senate pyramid, Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Obama flew from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

President OBAMA: I appreciate everybody saying Obama, but I want everybody to say Harry, Harry, Harry, Harry.

SHAPIRO: He told 9,000 Democrats at an outdoor rally that he needs their help to make sure Reid holds on.

President OBAMA: If I'm going to be able to help middle class families all across this country live out their dreams, then I want to have a partner in the United States Senate named Harry Reid.

(Soundbite of cheering)

SHAPIRO: The outcome of this race could hinge on Latinos. Paul Taylor of the Pew Hispanic Center says Nevada has one of the largest concentrations of Latinos in the county.

MR. PAUL TAYLOR (Director, Pew Hispanic Center): About 26 percent of the population of Nevada is Hispanic, but only about 14 percent of the electorate is Hispanic. There's that disparity because so many of the Hispanics who live in that state are either very young, not old enough to vote, or are not citizens.

SHAPIRO: Taylor says he could imagine Latinos sitting out this election, but he cannot imagine them voting for Republicans in large numbers.

Mr. TAYLOR: The share of Latinos who think that Republicans have been better for Latinos than Democrats is in the single digits.

SHAPIRO: Fernand Amandi runs a consulting firm that specializes in the Hispanic electorate. He says Latinos were hit harder than some other demographic groups in the recession, especially in Nevada, where home building was such a big industry during the boom.

Mr. FERNAND AMANDI (Consultant): Latinos tend to be much lower on the wage earning scale. They tend to be a lot more impacted when it comes to these cutbacks on jobs and of the economic pain and crunch that's being felt around the country.

SHAPIRO: Amandi theorizes that the economic crunch could keep demoralized Latinos from voting this year. The purpose of Mr. Obama's visit in Nevada, as elsewhere on this tour, is to keep that from happening.

He brought the get-out-the-vote message to the Hispanic community yesterday in a Spanish-language radio interview, and at his rallies he followed his familiar refrain of yes-we-can with: si, se puede.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Las Vegas

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