Nevada has been trending more Democratic in recent presidential elections as an influx of Hispanic voters and transplants from California have turned the state from red to blue.
But Donald Trump’s appeal in the state is undeniable. He lost the state in 2016 by just 2 percentage points and thinks he can flip it this year. Trump flew into the small town of Minden — a change of venue forced on the campaign when officials in Reno, his first choice for a rally, denied him permission because of the coronavirus pandemic — and spoke before an audience packed on the tarmac of the small airport.
The president blamed Nevada’s Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak for the change, accusing him of calling venues and telling them not to allow the Trump campaign to hold a rally. The governor denies it and Reno airport officials claim it was they who canceled the event. But it was red meat for Trump, who gave a rousing, 90-minute speech defending his administration and skewering the Democrats.
Privately, the Trump campaign welcomed the fight, believing it highlighted a reelection theme: Trump’s insistence that the nation has turned the corner on the pandemic, while Democrats, including Biden and governors, are hurting the nation’s economy and psyche with stringent restrictions. It’s the kind of political fight that Trump’s team relishes and underscores the growing importance of Nevada in Trump’s quest for 270 electoral votes as the race looks tight in a number of pivotal states.
Democrats are hearing Trump’s footsteps in the state and should be getting even more worried as voters begin to focus on the election.
Several thousand people covered the tarmac in Minden, including Tom Lenz, 64, of Sparks, Nevada, who said he didn’t vote for Trump last time.
“But I will this time. I think he knows what he’s doing,” said Lenz. “He’s pro-faith, pro-life, he’s made more peace in the world. Biden can’t even talk.”
Trump’s trip out west will not only try to poach votes from Biden in Nevada but shore up support in Arizona — a state hard hit by the coronavirus.
Some Democrats fear a possible Trump momentum gain in Nevada, with the president showing increasing support from Latinos and non-college education white voters, two important constituencies in the state.
The tightening race in a number of the most contested states, including increasing concern on the president’s team about Arizona, has led to a renewed effort for Trump to expand his electoral map. Once considered fairly safely in Trump’s column, Arizona has been ravaged by the coronavirus and the Trump team has grown worried about a slip in support among the state’s older residents.
Trump will also visit California and be briefed on the increasingly severe wildfires that are scorching that state, Oregon, and Washington.
The president is also targeting Minnesota and New Hampshire as opportunities to flip to the Republicans. His chances in both of those states as well as Nevada are getting stronger as Trump looks to redraw the electoral map and give himself a broader path to re-election.