Running Mate Blog

By Steve Brusk

LAS VEGAS (CNN) - Political eyes are watching to see if there are more fireworks in Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate in the shadows of the glitzy Las Vegas Strip. But other eyes in Vegas will be on another blast early Tuesday, one bringing down a symbol of the old city.

The New Frontier casino is expected to come crashing down in a cloud of dust at 2:30am local time - the latest older establishment blown up to make room for a massive new hotel, casino and residential development. The New Frontier with its famous neon cowboy sign made its name as the first casino with a theme.

It hosted Elvis' first show in Las Vegas. In a bit of political irony, Republican icon Ronald Reagan performed there in his entertainer days.

It was the first Strip venue for Siegfried and Roy.

But if the Democratic debate is helping symbolize changes in the west, the implosion on the Strip is a sign of something more tangible - another piece of the city's storied past lost in the name of progress.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidates begin making their way west for the showdown. The last few days on the trail have shown little sign Barack Obama or John Edwards will pull back from their intensified attacks on frontrunner Hillary Clinton. She remains the leader by a sizable margin, though some polls nationally and in early battleground states have tightened in recent days.

They honed their central messages on the same stage this weekend in critical Iowa, all addressing the Jefferson-Jackson state party dinner in Des Moines. Obama, clearly hinting at his chief rival, said "I am running for president because I am sick and tired of Democrats talking and acting and voting like George Bush Republicans."

And John Edwards told the dinner, "It is time for us as a party to stand up with some backbone and some strength, for what we actually believe in.

Meanwhile, Clinton painted herself as the candidate of experience, and her opponents not ready to service in the Oval Office, saying, "Change is just a word if you don't have the strength and experience to make it happen."

As demolition crews set the final charges in the New Frontier, the candidates work on their final lines. Different fireworks, only one with a certain outcome. We'll have to wait a while to see the impact of the other.

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