Obama Sees Political Gains in Conservative Nevada

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Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama predicted Thursday he'll run well in politically conservative Nevada, one of the earliest primary states, comparing it to his home state of Illinois.

Obama, in a coffee-shop interview before meeting with Nevada lawmakers, also defended his new health care plan, and said that while other candidates such as Hillary Clinton have more early endorsements in the state he will catch up with grass-roots support.

"One of the reasons I'm a U.S. senator is that I got strong support from places like southern Illinois where it's about as rural and southern as you get," Obama said.

"These are areas back in my home state that are pro-gun, very religious and with low minority populations - and we have consistently done well because I think there is a set of common values that people share."

"If people feel you're respectful and taking the time to talk to them, if you care about the things they care about, then you can do well regardless of what your background is," Obama said.

Discussing his plan to provide health care to millions of Americans and more affordable medical insurance, financed by tax increases on the wealthy, Obama said people will "eagerly" support it.

"If we are controlling costs and making premiums affordable, people will eagerly get health care," he said. "Some others have said you have to have a mandate for universal health care, but that assumes there are a bunch of people running around out there trying to avoid buying health care insurance. That's just not the case. The problem they have is they can't afford it."

Obama also said he's not worried about endorsements that other
Democratic presidential candidates already have. That includes the
endorsements that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign announced
on Tuesday.

Among the backers was former Gov. Bob Miller, the last Democrat
to sit in the Nevada governor's office, as well as a list of black community leaders the campaign said would shore up support for
Clinton among the state's black voters.

"We're still getting known in Nevada. This is my third visit," Obama said. "So it's not surprising that Sen. Clinton ... is able to get some of the traditional endorsements."

"We're much more interested in making sure we're reaching out to the ordinary voters like this," he said, referring to a crowd of about 50 people in the Comma Coffee shop across Carson City's main street from the state Legislature.

Obama added that his goal in Nevada is "enormous grass-roots support. That's what we're working on."

Asked about gambling, Obama said casino-dependent Nevada "has done a terrific job of regulating the industry. It has become a major growth engine, and I think other people from other states - including my mother-in-law - love to come here."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)