Mitt Romney is taking a page out of the playbook of one of his rivals by leaving Nevada on the eve of the state's GOP caucus to appear on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
That's what former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee did before Iowa's Jan. 3 caucus, and he went on to beat Romney there. So now it's Romney who's heading to Burbank today to tape the popular late-night program.
Of course, when Huckabee left Iowa for California in the midst of the hotly contested race in the first state to vote in the 2008 presidential race, other GOP candidates smugly suggested he was making a big mistake.
That thinking has changed, said Romney's traveling press secretary, Eric Fehrnstrom.
"It worked for Huckabee," Fehrnstrom told reporters on the campaign plane. "He won in Iowa, so apparently it was the right strategy. The path to the White House goes through the Jay Leno show."
Fehrnstrom joked that Romney's appearance this evening on "The Tonight Show" "was the only way we could be in Nevada and South Carolina at the same time."
The White House campaign has brought a new act to Vegas.
Democrat Barack Obama tried to use humor to cut down rival Hillary Rodham Clinton before 's presidential caucus. His "Iowa nice" approach gone, Obama debuted a biting political stand-up routine Thursday night that mocked his rival and employed it again on Friday.
Obama began by recalling a moment in Tuesday night's debate when he and his rivals were asked to name their biggest weakness. Obama answered first, saying he has a messy desk and needs help managing paperwork something his opponents have since used to suggest he's not up to managing the country. John Edwards said his biggest weakness is that he has a powerful response to seeing pain in others, and Clinton said she gets impatient to bring change to America.
"Because I'm an ordinary person, I thought that they meant, 'What's your biggest weakness?"' Obama said to laughter from a packed house at Rancho High School. "If I had gone last I would have known what the game was. And then I could have said, 'Well, ya know, I like to help old ladies across the street. Sometimes they don't want to be helped. It's terrible."'
No dancin' fool
Romney answered question after question from local and national reporters in Reno on Friday, but there was something he wasn't willing to do at the press conference.
When a cell phone belonging to a member of the press corps started ringing to the beat of a pop song, a reporter asked the candidate to show off his dance moves.
"No," Romney said quickly. "That's one thing I don't do."
Romney is usually surrounded by family members on the campaign trail, and Thursday night's stop at a campaign call center set up in a Las Vegas office building was no exception.
Before going onstage to rally volunteers, Romney waited in a stairwell with his son, Josh, daughter-in-law, Jen, and their three young children. Including Wyatt, who has a crouplike cough and a constantly running nose.
Romney asked his son about Wyatt's cough and helped his daughter-in-law settle into a chair with his sleeping granddaughter, Gracie. Then the candidate handed Wyatt a miniature John Deere tractor, no doubt a souvenir from the Iowa campaign.
But when Wyatt reached out to grab his grandfather, Romney laughed and stepped back. "Oh, no," he said. "I'm not catching what you've got."
Wyatt and his siblings weren't the only children at the evening rally. Many of the volunteers a group that included many Mormons brought their own children to meet Romney. Former Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, a Romney supporter, looked out over the crowd and said with a smile, "I thought I was at a Hannah Montana concert."
Gambling and prostitution are nothing here Michelle Obama committed the real local sin by mispronouncing the name of the state.
She was introducing her husband, Barack Obama, by saying how happy she was to be in Nuh-VAH-duh. The crowd at the University of Nevada Reno immediately burst into heckles.
Locals don't like it when visitors pronounce the state by using a soft a, like in "baccarat."
Michelle Obama immediately realized her mistake. "Nuh-VAD-uh! Oh, no," she said, putting her head in her hands in recognition of her blunder.
"I've been in South Carolina too long!" she said, a reference to her campaigning the primary state that comes next after Nevada's caucus today."It's nice to be here Nuh-VAD-uh! Nevada, Nevada, Nevada!" she said, making the politically correct pronunciation over and over again to applause from the crowd.
Deseret Morning News staff writer Lisa Riley Roche and the Associated Press combined for this report.