Elaine Wynn, Embracing Change
Barack's wife, Michelle, was the key
By STEVE FRIESS
For the First Lady of Las Vegas, it wasn’t the soaring rhetoric. It wasn’t the dazzling oratory skills. It wasn’t the cheering crowds or the position papers or the list of campaign promises that the nation probably can’t afford to fulfill.
Then what was the secret weapon that won over Elaine Wynn, that so impressed her that she found herself bucking her entire industry and her irate husband and actively working on behalf of a Democratic presidential candidate after a lifetime of voting only for Republicans?
Michelle. The wife. The woman seen by so many pundits as an albatross, as the more radical, more racial half of the soon-to-be First Couple. There came a moment for Elaine after the two women spent some time together way, way back in June 2007 when Wynn recalls saying to her husband, “Any guy who could get this woman to marry him has to be a helluva guy.” Good enough, even, to be president of the United States.
But first, Mrs. Wynn’s evolution began as many did over the past two years, when she took note of how enamored her own children and other young people around her were with Illinois’ freshman senator. She was delighted to see them engaged, so she bought Barack Obama’s two memoirs and “the more I read, the more impressed I got.” By the time she and the city’s ultimate Democratic political operative, Billy Vassiliadis, had their first chat about it, she leapt onto the Obama campaign’s Nevada steering committee.
Still, the deal was hardly sealed until Michelle Obama came a-calling for their first lunch at the Wynn.
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