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KNIGHTLY: Pahrump the front line for caucuses battleground

Pahrump is becoming a political focal point for the biggest job in the country as candidates are leaving no stone unturned looking for voters.

Sunday will see the arrival of the biggest name seeking their party’s nomination for president, Ted Cruz.

The junior U.S. senator from Texas will campaign at Draft Picks Sports Bar, which I personally think is an odd place for an event. I assume the event will be outside.

Cruz is seeking the Republican party nomination for president, having already won the Iowa Caucus and finishing third in New Hampshire. Currently trailing in the South Carolina primary polls, Cruz will arrive in town looking for every Nevada vote he can get when Republicans caucus on Feb. 23 to maintain viability in the race.

This strategy seems to follow the one laid out by Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady and Secretary of State. While she has not made her way to Pahrump, her husband and former President Bill Clinton held court at Manse Elementary on Feb. 6. This followed a visit to Clinton’s campaign headquarters on East Basin Avenue by U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez four days earlier.

The importance of Pahrump to the Clinton campaign was the focus of a Feb. 10 article by Bloomberg Business, “Clinton Looks to Nevada and Its Delegate-Rich Outskirts.”

“After losing the New Hampshire primary to Bernie Sanders, Clinton is counting on Nevada to deliver her a decisive victory,” wrote reporter Josh Eidelson in the article.

Clinton knows Nevada. This is her fourth time in Nevada, having been a part of her husband’s two campaigns and her own eight years ago. But she is leaving nothing to chance against surging Vermont U.S. Sen. Sanders, even though Clinton won the Silver State against President Barack Obama in 2008.

But back to Cruz. His appearance Sunday will mark the third visit by a hopeful seeking the Republican nomination. Former candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, visited the Bob Ruud Center on Oct. 28, and barely-hanging-on Ben Carson stumped at the Pahrump Nugget on Nov. 23.

But while Cruz, Carson and Paul have visited Pahrump, no GOP candidate has opened a campaign office in town. Both Clinton and Sanders have people carrying their flag out of competing offices.

Maybe it is a money issue. I was surprised when Clinton and Sanders opened offices here, figuring that would be left to happen in bigger markets such as Las Vegas and Reno. But in an election cycle where every vote really does seem to count – Clinton won Iowa 49.84 percent to 49.59 percent – both probably couldn’t afford not to have a grassroots presence. Sending in husband Bill was just a doubling-down move by Hillary, a play Sanders can’t hope to match before the Democrats caucus on Saturday.

But with six candidates remaining in the field, campaign war chests are probably being watched and luxuries such as campaign office space might not be affordable in places such as Pahrump.

But that doesn’t mean the interest among Republicans is lacking.

Carla Perkins, Republican caucus coordinator for Nye County, said the party expects 3,000 people on Feb. 23 at Rosemary Clarke Middle School, site of the GOP caucus for Pahrump’s precincts.

If achieved, that would be a significant increase from the 2,200 that participated in 2012.

Battleground Pahrump.

Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times

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