Obama Town Hall Feels Like Harry Reid Campaign Rally

(AP)
Updated 3:45 p.m. ET

HENDERSON, Nev. -- President Obama arrived in Las Vegas last night and kicked off his stay with a closed DNC fundraiser. The main event today is a town hall in nearby Henderson, Nev. While the fundraising happened last night, today's event could have doubled as a campaign rally for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is trailing in polls to potential challengers in his bid for re-election in November.

"Great to be here with my good friend, your great senator Harry Reid" said the president as he jumped on stage with a big embrace of Reid, who introduced him to the friendly crowd at Green Valley High School.

The accolades were non-stop. "I can personally attest that Harry Reid is one of the toughest people I know," Mr. Obama said. "He does not give up, he knows what he cares about, he knows what he believes in, and he's willing to fight for it. And sometimes he takes his licks, but he gets back up ..Harry Reid has never stopped fighting."

He continued: "He hasn't stopped fighting for Nevada, he has not fighting for the united states of America and middle class families all across this country that need a fair shake."

Obama: "I Love Vegas!"

As the event continued, Mr. Obama consistently pointed to Reid's "leadership" on saving the economy and on tackling tough issues like health care reform. He said the stimulus package and the 2 million jobs it has created wouldn't have been possible without Harry Reid. He also said that many actions on banks and the economy, while not popular, were necessary and Harry Reid got them done.

"From the tax cuts to the unemployment insurance to the jobs, that was only possible because of Harry's leadership. And as a result, our economy is growing again," said the president. "We're no longer staring into an economic abyss because of what Harry Reid helped to do."

A woman in the audience later asked the president about efforts to rebuild the tourism industry in Las Vegas. Mr. Obama didn't miss a beat, he said that the Senate is working on a bill, and well, no one better to explain it, then Harry Reid himself. The president then handed his microphone to Reid, who was sitting behind him on stage. Reid talked about a bill that would sell the U.S. as a tourist destination, similar to ads people see for other countries.

Even though he is down in the polls, Laura Myers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tells CBS News that it's too soon to count Reid out in the race come November.

"Right now the money's not on Harry Reid, but in the end he's a fighter, and he's a tough campaigner and he's won very close elections before, so you can't count him out," she said.

"Some people who have become disenchanted with the senator and who are unhappy with incumbents in general, they still might in the end back Harry Reid if he can convince them that he is the one they can trust in Washington to do Nevada's business," Myers added.

And Mr. Obama didn't let anyone watching forget that Harry Reid is worthy of another term in office, though he never issues those exacts words, because the event was technically a town hall, not the campaign event it became.

Mr. Obama even continued his praise Harry Reid tour at a second Vegas event later in the day -- a speech to the Las Vegas chamber of commerce.

Calling the embattled senator an "extraordinary leader," the president said he hopes Reid will serve in Washington for many years to come.

"You could not have a better fighter for the people of Nevada than Senator Harry Reid," Mr. Obama said.

At that event, the president also responded to critics that say he's recently maligned Las Vegas as a place where people should not go and be irresponsible with their money. "I love Vegas" he said joyously. "Last night I drew a flush on the river and cut the budget deficit in half," he joked, using poker parlance to say that he's always enjoyed his visits here.


Robert Hendin is a CBS News White House producer. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
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