ELKO, Nev. -- It's tougher than you might expect native Nevadans in Elko. But I saw that coming: I'm in town the same time as the Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Downtown Elko looks like the street outside an audition for Deadwood extras, poetry and music lovers wearing dusters and stetsons, smoking cigarettes, deciding whether to see Ian Tyson tonight. (I'd be on the fence. A few years back, the folk singer completely lost his voice due to illness, and he basically talk-sings his classics now.)
In the Western Folklife Center, after meeting some Montanans who warned me not to announce my East Coast heritage too quickly, I ran into Kent, an escavator from Virginia City, Nev. He'd come into town for the festival, but he'd caucus on Saturday.
"My sweetheart and I are going to go for Gingrich," he said. "He's the conservative choice. I mean, Ron Paul -- I love the guy, and if there was a chance in hell he could win, I'd go for him."
There was no chance in hell he'd vote for Barack Obama. "Unemployment is around 17 percent in Virginia City," he said. "Been that was since the gentleman currently in the White House got there." He was among the strugglers. A lot of Nevadans had given Obama a chance in 2008. Not Kent.
"This is going to sound rough," he said. "But if you're a Democrat, you are my enemy. Democrats piss me off. They've gotten extremely socialistic." What did that mean? "Every time they get in, they raise taxes. They screw things up. I've got a jeep I've had for ten years; I pay $100 a year on the license plate. We just got a new Dodge; $600 to license it. You pay your money, they pass it on to the Mexicans, the colored people. Free education, handouts, all of that." Kent was 67, and dated his disdain for socialism back to Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society. "We've got maybe two Democrats in Virginia City. One of them owns the second-biggest bar. I won't set a foot in the door."