Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle argued that Sen. Barack Obama, D- Ill., is the best choice for president Thursday morning at Antioch Coffee in Gardnerville.
About 50 people attended the event where Daschle said Nevada will play a huge role in the upcoming presidential election.
"Nevada is going to be one of the most important battleground states," Daschle said. "The whole country if not the world will be focused on Nevada the night of the caucus."
Daschle said rural communities like Douglas County will have a considerable impact on the election.
"For the first time people in rural America are going to have a real significant voice in who the next president will be," Daschle said.
He compared Obama to John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan, saying he had the same kind of charisma and ability to connect with voters.
"I've been waiting a long time for someone to come along who can inspire my kids," Daschle said. "Obama has that ability."
Warren Harnden, who's lived in the Valley for seven years and is a registered Democrat, asked Daschle if Obama could restore a sense of civility and responsibility to American politics.
"I'm tired of people making excuses," Harnden said.
Daschle reassured him Obama was the right choice.
"Obama doesn't come with all the baggage and old wars," he said. "We need someone who lives up to constitutional principles and an administration that's competent. Only then can we restore trust with the American people."
Tom Vondruska, a registered Democrat who's lived in the Valley for 10 months and said he voted for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, asked if Obama would be able to work with both parties.
"Of all of Obama's strengths one of his best is his ability to find common ground," Daschle said.
When asked why he endorsed Obama and not Sen. Hillary Clinton, Daschle refused to say anything critical about Clinton but stressed Obama's ability to work in the center of the political spectrum.
"We need a candidate who can win not just Democrats but Republicans and Independents as well," Daschle said. "Barack is the best choice."
A tougher question came from Democrat Bill Thomas who asked Daschle why Obama had not been present in the Senate for an important vote concerning political action against Iran.
"Sometimes votes come up, and you're not able to give members adequate warning," Daschle said. "I'm sure he'll clarify his whereabouts if he hasn't already."
Talk of Iran led to discussion about Iraq.
"Obama wants to end the war," Daschle said. "It is time to bring American troops home."
Daschle said unlike other politicians including himself who initially supported the war Obama has been against it from the beginning.
"Barack stood up and said no!" Daschle said.
When asked about accusations that Obama didn't have enough experience to deal with such complex issues, Daschle said Obama has the kind of experience America needs.
"Don't confuse experience with judgment," Daschle said.
He argued that Obama has real life experience outside of Washington politics and that's why he's able to connect with voters.
"His experience is a strength, not a weakness," Daschle said.
He said Obama's plan for Iraq includes a date for troop withdrawal and a new Iraqi constitution with greater emphasis on democratization and reconciliation.
Daschle connected the Iraq war to energy problems facing America. He said former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan stated in his new book that the Iraq war is mostly about oil.
"We have made huge commitments in the Persian Gulf," Daschle said. "As long as we are dependent on the Persian Gulf for oil, we'll be extremely vulnerable."
Daschle said one of Obama's highest priorities is to cultivate new markets for alternative energy, not to only lessen America's dependency on foreign oil but to mitigate global warming as well.
"We need a leader who recognizes the importance of reducing carbon emissions," Daschle said.
Daschle said Obama connects with the people of Nevada not only on issues of Iraq and alternative energy, but on issues of healthcare too.
"We got to give Americans access to health insurance," Daschle said. "We need to re-convince the American people that the government works for them and not special interests."
For more information about Barack Obama's presidential campaign visit nevada.barackobama.com or call the campaign's Reno headquarters at (775) 333-9900.
-- Scott Neuffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-5121, ext. 217.