The Reno Gazette-Journal, Andy Barron) NEVADA APPEAL OUT; NO SALES, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS — Nevada voters could ultimately decide which party controls the U.S. Senate and White House this fall, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday in stumping for Dean Heller at a fundraiser.
None of the Republicans' national legislative goals — from repealing health care reform to preventing tax increases — will happen if Heller isn't elected and doesn't tip the balance of power in the Senate from Democratic to Republican, he said.
"I can't describe to you how critical this state has become. It's not unrealistic to say that this state will decide the next majority leader and the next president of the United States," said Rubio, a rising GOP star.
Rubio had been a contender to be a running mate to Mitt Romney but Romney went with Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
In Carson City, Heller's Democratic opponent, Shelly Berkley, told a crowd at a coffee shop Thursday that Social Security and Medicare are under attack by Heller and the Republican presidential ticket.
Many in the crowd were seniors. Berkley told them to remember what it was like for the elderly before Social Security was enacted in 1935.
"They had no income and no hope," she said, adding that one-third of her constituency are seniors who live off monthly Social Security checks that average $1,147.
The seven-term Democratic congresswoman from Las Vegas linked Heller to the Romney-Ryan ticket. Ryan's plan to reduce the deficit, well-received among Republicans, is "radical, ill-conceived" legislation that would harm seniors, the poor and the middle class, she said.
"I'd say Medicare is facing its biggest threat since it was created in 1965," Berkley told about 50 people who gathered at a coffee house across the street from the Nevada Legislature.
Heller's fundraiser on the Las Vegas Strip was a $50-per-plate lunch at The Venetian hotel. More than 600 bought tickets, according to Heller's campaign staff.
Heller let Rubio do most of the talking, and Rubio, who lived in Las Vegas from third through eighth grade, recalled how his parents both worked in the hotel industry. His father was a bartender at Sam's Town and his mother a maid at the Imperial Palace — jobs he said helped provide him with a stable home growing up.
"It wasn't because of government, it wasn't because of the president, it wasn't because of the U.S. Senate. My parents had jobs because somebody had access to money and decided to risk it, to risk it in America by opening a hotel," Rubio said.
His parents also had jobs because many Americans could afford to take three-day, two-night vacations in Las Vegas.
"And with the money that they made in these hotels, they raised our family and opened up extraordinary opportunities for us. That's my story," Rubio said.
Heller and Berkley are in a close race. Heller, a former Nevada secretary of state and congressman, is making his first run for U.S. Senate after being appointed last year to replace Republican John Ensign after he resigned.
Berkley has been outpacing Heller in fundraising. Her campaign raised more than $1.5 million in the April-through-June quarter, compared with $1.2 million raised by Heller.
"You guys remember when we had Ronald Reagan, Johnny Cash and Bob Hope? Now we've got Barack Obama, no cash and no hope," Heller quipped before introducing Rubio.
Heller and Rubio also campaigned Thursday in Reno. Obama's ideas are "the same ideas that have kept people in poverty for centuries," Rubio told the crowd of more than 300 at a nightclub a few doors from Washoe County GOP headquarters.
"Our rights didn't come from government, they came from God,'" he said to the loudest cheers.
Republican Congressman Mark Amodei predicted Washoe County would help the Romney-Ryan ticket carry Nevada, and Heller led chants of "Where are the jobs?" before introducing Rubio.
Sandra Chereb reported from Carson City. Associated Press writer Scott Sonner contributed to this report from Reno.
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