By Jason Meucci
On the World Famous Las Vegas Strip
If you were a betting person -- and there seems to be a lot of those in the town some call lost wages -- you don't have to walk far to find any number of mega-casinos where you can walk into the sports book and place a bet on any manner of obscure horse races.
Ironically, "horse race" is just one of the many expressions linking the world of competitive sports to the even more combative world of presidential politics.
And while a quick "special investigation" (hey, how many times can you legitimately tell the bosses you have to go check out some sports books for actual research?) reveals that you can't exactly walk up to the betting window and put 50 bucks on Hillary, there's certainly no shortage of websites that not only give the current odds on who will take the White House - but conveniently offer you the chance to "invest" your money on the candidate of your choosing.
Having completed my "investigation" I strolled back out to the hustle and bustle of the Strip to try to put the presidential race into a Vegas perspective, which candidate would people be willing to bet their money on? Who would they like to most spend a night out in Las Vegas with? And for that matter, which potential president would make the best gambler?
Gina Grant is from Dothan, Alabama, and is in town for the National Association of Realtors convention. She's a Republicans - and was quick and enthusiastic to answer the question about who she'd most like to hit Sin City with: "Giuliani! He's from New York, so he's gotta be some kinda fun!" Not wanting to paint the former Big Apple mayor in any unfavorable light, she clarified: "But he cleaned it up too - so he wouldn't get you into too much trouble."
Her husband, also a GOP supporter, had his ideas about who the best gambler would be. "Fred Thompson - 'cause he's Hollywood!"
Now meet Polly from Wisconsin. She's a middle-aged nurse from Wisconsin who is here on a "girl's weekend." She says she'd most like to hit the town with Mitt Romney because "he seems the most with it." But one of the other "girls" on this girls' weekend, Judy, an Independent, says she "doesn't have a good feeling about any of them."
Well then, what about who would be the best gambler? Polly again: "We don't like Hillary, but she'd be the best. She's wise, but self-centered." Not overly surprising coming from a Republican, I suppose.
But this is when pressed for an answer on who she'd actually bet on to win the election, she leans in and whispers - "don't tell my husband, (unofficially qualifying this as one of those "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" moments), but I might vote for Obama. He's young and inexperienced, but I respect him the most." Like many voters, she says she's still undecided. But what is probably not like many voters is the pair of candidates she's still considering - Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.
Next I ran into Sue from Pennsylvania - she's a Democrat who works in healthcare. When asked who would be the most fun to see Vegas with, she pauses and contemplates with a seriousness that makes one think she's actually about to somehow cast her official vote for president right then and there. Finally she speaks: "Obama." Then another long pause when asked why. Her Republican husband Dan seized the opportunity to interject - "Because Hillary has no personality!" Obviously they are a house divided.
Since Sue was taking this so seriously, I asked her another one. Who'd be the best gambler? Clearly looking to re-establish herself in this political sparring match with her husband, she responds: "Probably whoever takes the most crazy risks - so it would have to be a Republican. "
OK Dan, your turn, "Probably Edwards - because he's so rich, he can afford to lose all that money."
So here we are in Vegas - less than a year away from Election Day - and it still seems like there's almost as many candidates as there are numbers on a roulette wheel. And still a lot of voters who aren't quite ready to decide which one to place their political chips on.