WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will arrive in Las Vegas two days ahead of his remarks at a graduation for ex-offenders Thursday — a sign that his re-election campaign will focus on flipping Nevada in November.
“Whenever a major primary or caucus is occurring on the Democratic side in a state, Trump comes and gives a speech or rally, so as not to concede the stage entirely to the Democratic candidates,” noted Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “It makes sense.”
Air Force One is expected to touch down at McCarran International Airport Tuesday evening. There will be no public events in Las Vegas on Tuesday or Wednesday, but the president is expected at a high-ticket golf fundraiser in Rancho Mirage, California during the day and at a campaign rally in Phoenix at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Afterward, Air Force One should head to Las Vegas some time around the start of the Democratic debate in Las Vegas at 9 p.m.
After Trump attends a graduation ceremony for the group Hope for Prisoners at the Metropolitan Police Department’s headquarters on Thursday, he will depart for a rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
While the White House and Trump campaign do not disclose where Trump stays when he travels, the president usually stays at his Trump International Hotel when he is in town.
Trump repeatedly has suggested that he sees Nevada as winnable in 2020, even though Hillary Clinton garnered 47.9 percent of the Nevada vote to his 45.5 percent in 2016.
In 2018, a blue wave cost Nevada’s GOP Sen. Dean Heller his seat and swept all but one statewide office toward Democratic candidates.
Nonetheless, Nevada Republican Party chairman Michael McDonald told the Review-Journal that Las Vegas “always has been a strategic hub for the president. He has a beautiful hotel here. The people of Nevada are 1,000 percent behind him.”
“I hope he spends a lot of money here because I think he has no chance to win Nevada,” countered Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who pointed to 2016 and 2018 results to bolster her view.
“From what I’m hearing, in my office, there was a lot of support for impeachment from my constituents,” Titus added.
McDonald, a former Las Vegas city councilman and Metropolitan Police Department officer who also serves as assistant constable for Laughlin, sees Trump’s support for Hope for Prisoners and his commitment to criminal justice reform as a potential game changer.
Trump “stands by the badge,” said McDonald, who will attend the Hope for Prisoners event in his law-enforcement capacity, even as Trump works to help ex-offenders succeed in the world. “He’s appealing to both sides of society. Only he can do this.”
McDonald believes ex-offenders will vote for Trump in November — and they’ll be able to do so because of a bill passed in Carson City last year that enabled ex-felons to register to vote. The bill re-enfranchised some 77,000 Nevadans.
In another play for Nevada, Vice President Mike Pence will speak at an Evangelicals For Trump event in Las Vegas, Friday, a day ahead of the Democratic caucuses. Pence also will participate in a Reno event before he heads back to Washington.
“The Trump people have long listed Nevada as a state they can grab back from the Democrats. In 2016 it was reasonably close so it’s not a long shot. At the least they’ll make the Democrats spend money in Nevada when they might have put the money elsewhere, say Arizona,” Sabato offered.
I am in Las Vegas, at the best hotel (by far), Trump International. I will be working with my wonderful teams and volunteers to WIN Nevada!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2016