Nevada's turn; spotlight turns here this month

By CRISTINA SILVA | October 2, 2011 | 8:35 AM EDT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada is preparing for its Cinderella moment.

While Iowa and New Hampshire hog the spotlight, Nevada is quietly forcing candidates to rack up frequent flier miles and set up shop in the state months before next year's primary contests.

National Republicans and Democrats are planning conferences in Las Vegas and both events will bookend a GOP debate on Oct. 18. It's the only remaining candidate forum scheduled west of Iowa before the first primary.

Nevada's third-in-the-nation presidential nomination contest is scheduled for Feb. 18. But it may be sooner if other states try to jump to the front of the line.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Georgia businessman Herman Cain have been working Nevada for months. The other candidates are expected to follow.