It’s no secret that the ex-president’s relationship with the state is complicated.
Though he has a firm grip on the state’s Republican Party, he has lost to Nevada in back-to-back presidential campaigns, by nearly 3 percentage points in 2020. As the Trump campaign turns its attention to the battleground state, the former president on Saturday mentioned this challenge .
“We have a great job to do. This has been a difficult state. I truly believe it is a Republican state, » Trump said. « This is the most important election in the history of our country. »
There was some theatrics from Trump, who from the outset emphasized the scope of the relatively small event. As usual, when he spoke at smaller gatherings, he made note of a « large crowd » outside and pointed to media coverage of crowd sizes at recent rallies.
But Trump also kept the red meat going, delivering a few quips with gusto as he repeated familiar falsehoods about the 2020 election he lost and insisted on how he was going to fix the country’s elections, including in Nevada. The meandering speech also touched on the border, China, critical race theory, transgender people, and a medley of the former president’s greatest achievements.
Trump drew applause when he rattled off the names of Nevada GOP power brokers, including state party chairman Michael McDonald, who was a so-called « fake voter » in 2020. McDonald testified last month before a large federal jury in Washington investigating January 6 and the former president’s efforts to stay in office.
« Michael McDonald has been a friend of mine for a long time, » Trump said.
The Nevada GOP, under the leadership of McDonald’s, is suing the state government for moving away from the caucus format that relies heavily on grassroots support and benefited Trump eight years ago. The 2024 primaries, which will likely fall in February, are expected to switch to traditional state primaries.
Trump has seized several opportunities to beat Ron DeSantis, just weeks after the Florida governor ran a Basque Fry barbecue fundraising campaign in the state. DeSantis’ message during that event, without naming Trump, was that if Republicans are to beat a Democrat in 2024, they need to go beyond the former president.
« I’m not a huge fan of his, and he’s greatly overrated, » Trump said. «He is going to be killed. … Besides, he has no personality. This helps, right? As a politician, you have to have personality. »
Trump went after DeSantis again for his 2018 vote as a Republican in the House for a bill that would have authorized the storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, a key issue in the teetering state. DeSantis’ campaign was rejected Saturday night, calling Trump a « hypocrite » as three of his budgets as president had called for the Yucca licensing process to be restarted. But in 2020, Trump reversed his position, announcing that he opposed the long-delayed nuclear waste project.
Polls in the state have been sparser than some of the other early primary states, but in early polls, Trump has a strong lead over DeSantis by more than 30 percentage points, while the other GOP contenders are lagging by the single digits.
As he wrapped up his short speech, Trump hinted at more important things to come as the campaign season progresses.
« I just want to thank you all for volunteering and for being with us, and we love you, » Trump said. « And we’ll be back many times, and we have a couple of big rallies planned in the next couple of months, and we’ll have 60, 70,000 people at these rallies. »