PAHRUMP, Nev. -- Here is a rough approximation of how the signs alternate on the way over to Pahrump's roller skating rink.
RON PAUL 2012
RON PAUL 2012
This city of around 25,000 people, an hour's drive west of Las Vegas, boomed as neighboring Clark County boomed. You could enjoy the weather of Vegas with none of the traffic, and buy acreage that you never could afford toward the city. The blocks of empty storefronts and homes -- restaurants and gas stations still decorated, ready to buy -- tell you about the capital that's fled.
And so, we're in prime Ron Paul territory. In 2008, Paul won the caucuses in Nye County (Pahrump is the population center) with 415 of 1,226 votes. At Paul's rally today, more than 300 voters show up. They arrive in two waves, because some bad information went into a local paper, informing locals that the noon event was actually at 1 p.m. Paul shrugs and gives two speeches, one for each crowd. "I have to cram everything I've talked about for 30 years into five minutes!" he laughs, in between marathon sessions of hand-shaking.
Because Paul won this county in 2008, in a six-candidate split, it's crucial for the narrative that he wins it again. The outlook is promising. You can't enter the rally without passing multiple sign-up sheets and four computers staffed by people who can find your precinct. When I ask a staffer to name all of the (non-consecutive) numbered precincts in the city, she does, instantly, counting off on her fingers.
Who is the Pahrump Ron Paul supporter? Al Amiot, a retired Navy veteran from San Diego, says he's lived in the city for 11 years, ever since he saw a cheap acre and a quarter and decided to built on it.
"There's over 1000 homes in the valley that are foreclosed on," he says. "You go on the south end, there are homes foreclosed on. You go on the north end. Same thing. It's terrible. The banks could have stopped it a long time ago. Instead they let the rich guys buy houses real cheap, then let 'em leave." Why did this make him want to vote for Ron Paul. "I'm against Obama. I don't like liars."
The angry home owners in Pahrump get company. Gary Reid drives in to make the 1 p.m. rally, barely -- he had to come from Beatty, 80 miles up the road to Reno. He sports an Oath Keepers T-shirt and shows me the gold and silver that he wears basically all of the time.
Paul wraps up; his next event is at a gun range.