(RENO, NEV.) - Barack Obama is back on the campaign trail today, after taking a day and half off to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii. Obama landed in Reno early this morning to be in place for a rally at the University of Nevada. He will also campaign in Las Vegas, Nev., and Albuquerque, N.M., later today.
Obama's swing out west is an indication that the campaign is becoming increasingly confident in the days leading up to the election. On a conference call yesterday, campaign manager David Plouffe, said their goal is to ensure a victory in the states that John Kerry won in 2004 and then to expand the map. Kerry lost both Nevada and New Mexico in 2004, but the latest poll numbers show Obama leading McCain in both states.
Despite the boost in poll numbers, Plouffe said the campaign expects the race to be tight. "Our whole strategy has been predicated on the fact that these battleground states are going to be decided very narrowly, that's what we're preparing for," he said, adding, "That's the kind of operation we built in these states - an operation that can help us win a very close election."
Part of the plan is to generate a high voter turnout in states that have early voting. In Nevada, voting began on Oct. 18, and according to numbers released by the Obama campaign, 53% of the 201,637 ballots were cast for Democrats. This compares with only 32% cast for Republicans. Similarly in New Mexico, 56% of all votes cast were for Democrats and 33% were for Republicans.
Plouffe said he is encouraged by the early turnout in Nevada in particular and believes that Obama can win here.
"The state's changed a lot in the last four years, we now have, we estimate, over 110,000 voter registration advantage in Nevada after having a deficit four years ago," Plouffe said.
However, he was quick to add the caveat that the election is still over a week away.