Watch CBSN Live

Obama To Speak At U. Nevada-Reno

This story was written by Nick Coltrain, Sagebrush

One University of Nevada-Reno political science professor called presidential nominee Barack Obamas on-campus speech Tuesday, a mere five weeks before Election Day, a unique happening for Nevada.

Another called college campuses a logical stopping point for Democrats on the trail.

They both said to expect the candidates and their surrogates to make more appearances in the Reno area. Polls show that Nevada, with five electoral votes, is one of the few states without a chosen nominee. And Washoe County is a close county in a close state.

Nevada is very important, said Rick Gorka, a Nevada spokesman for Republican nominee John McCain. At the end of the day we are looking at a very close election. Regardless if a state has five electoral votes or 55, every one of those votes are very highly prized.

A poll-trending Web site,, lists Nevada support at 47.2 percent for Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) and 45.7 percent for Sen. Obama (D-Ill.). A similar Web site,, lists McCain at 47 percent and Obama at 45.3.Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks during a rally in the Virginia Street Gym last January. Amy Beck/Nevada Sagebrush

As of Monday evening, Sept. 21 was the most recent polling date used on the two sites.

And if the polls stay like that, then the candidates and their supporters will keep pushing in the state, said Eric Herzik, a University of Nevada, Reno political science professor.

Obama support visibly surged at UNR after Fridays speech announcement. Students chalked the sidewalks over the weekend, made signs and started waving them at Lawlor the day before.

Aside from that kind of support, Nevada already has an important role in the presidential elections, said David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Its a race that the Republicans have barely won twice and the Democrats have been gaining steam, Damore, a Democratic-leaning independent, said.

Because this race is shaping up to be similarly close, the five electoral votes could become vital in the race for the 270 votes needed for victory, Herzik said.

He used the example of the 2000 elections if Democratic nominee Al Gore had earned 18,000 more votes in Nevada, then Florida would have become irrelevant.

Eighteen (thousand) sounds like a lot, but its not. Its an up tick in turnout of Clark County of maybe 2 percent, Herzik said. (In 2008) Well get fewer general stops then, lets say, Ohio, but well still get a good share.

Herzik wasnt surprised by Obamas choice to speak at UNR. Universities tend to have the necessary facilities and they are symbols of higher education.

Plus, universities are generally seen as liberal islands, so youre almost always going to get a more favorable welcome, Herzik, a registered Republican, said.

Republicans tend to favor sporting events and veterans rallies, he said.

If McCain came here I dont know if he would necessarily come to the university, Herzik said. (President George W.) Bush never did.

Bush will speak Friday in Reno at the White House Conference on North American Wildlife, The Associated Press reported.Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks to a crowd at the McKinley Arts and Culture Center in May 2007, months before he clinched the Republican presidential nomination. Amy Beck/Nevada Sagebrush

Jeff Giertz, Obamas Nevada spokesman, said Obama is stopping at the campus partly to push for extra support in Washoe County and among its young voters.

(Young people voting) is extremely important, Giertz said. One of the halmarks of our campaign has been to bring voters into the process that have never been involved in the process before.

The county and its young voters are similarly important for McCain, Gorka, the campaigns Nevada spokesman, said.

And now it is push for both.