(Gary Shapiro) – Now that he’s the frontrunner, Mitt Romney is beginning to feel the Democratic knives in his back as he travels around the country. Exhibit A is an opinion piece by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and others in the Las Vegas Sun that came out after Romney’s Florida victory and before the Nevada caucus, blasting Romney for his “reckless ideas” and “out-of-touch vision” for Nevada. You can read my published response in the Sun.
In the piece, Reid writes, “Nevada needs to look to the future.” That is a useful strategy for Reid and other allies of President Obama to adopt; after all, if Nevadans are looking to the future, then just maybe they’ll forget the past. With Nevada leading the nation in unemployment and foreclosure rates, Democrats like Reid fear citizens of this state will compare Obama’s dismal economic and job results with Romney’s strong business and job creation experience. There’s only one way that comparison will go: Defeat for Obama.
And that gets to the heart of why the Democrats are attacking one leading Republican candidate and not the other – former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. They want to drive primary voters away from Romney because they believe Obama has a better chance of beating a man with no business or job-creation experience.
The second attack is more curious: Why attack Romney and try to link him to the depressed housing market? Reid’s only evidence is that one time Romney told Nevadans that the housing market had to “hit the bottom” before it could recover. But if Romney’s words have had an effect on Nevada’s terrible foreclosure rates, then shouldn’t Obama’s words matter as well? I doubt Mr. Romney’s comments had the same effect on Nevada’s economy as Mr. Obama’s comments from 2009 when he criticized Las Vegas as a symbol of excess and greed. After the remark, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported 340 event cancellations that cost the local economy about $131.6 million.
Las Vegas is the best place on earth for conventions like our recently completed International CES. It’s not only the great Las Vegas hotels, convention centers and entertainment, it’s the warmth, hospitality, skills and intelligence of the Las Vegas people.
Again, this is all a diversion. Nevada homeowners have not suffered because of Mitt Romney. They have been hurt because these past few years, many fewer people have traveled to Las Vegas. Fewer visitors means fewer hotel and casino jobs. It means fewer construction jobs, less tax revenue and falling home prices. That’s why Nevada has been hit so hard: As the U.S. economy goes, so goes Nevada.
Moreover, Obama has compounded his anti-Nevada policies by restricting government officials from attending trade shows. The president has also recently proposed a rule barring all government employees from participating in association sponsored conventions and exhibitions. Las Vegas is hurting because the President has pursued anti-business policies that directly affect Nevada’s economy. From Obamacare to the Dodd-Frank financial reform act to out-of-control regulators, President Obama’s administration has devastated our economy and job creation. More than other Americans, Nevadans know that a dismal U.S. economy and discouraged employers means less travel to Las Vegas.
Compare the president’s record in Nevada to Romney’s and you’re hard pressed to find an iota of evidence to support Reid’s view that a Romney Administration will make matters worse. That’s why they attack Romney for telling a hard truth: that the housing market must “hit the bottom” before it can recover. That might not be the feel-good rhetoric Reid imagines wins elections, but it’s the truth.
Nevadans need a politician who will confront these issues. Romney is not perfect, but this unfair political attack on him at this time does nothing but divert attention from the real issue of why Las Vegas homeowners are under water. Las Vegas homeowners are in trouble because President Obama has by policy and word hurt Las Vegas and the national economy.
As the head of an organization whose success is tied directly with the success of Las Vegas, I ask Nevada voters to support those politicians like state Senator Dean Heller and Rep. Shelley Berkley who have supported this city and its major events. The more we reward honest politicians who treat Las Vegas as an important element in the U.S. economy, the more Nevada will grow and prosper.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Comeback:How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.”