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Trump criticizes Sisolak in Arizona border rally

Updated October 28, 2020 - 7:22 pm

Thwarted from bringing one of his campaign rallies to Southern Nevada because of the state’s COVID-19 gathering limits, President Donald Trump instead held a rally just over the border at the Laughlin/Bullhead City International Airport Wednesday.

Trump sniped at Gov. Steve Sisolak without mentioning him by name. In an afternoon news conference, Sisolak fired back, disputing Trump’s assertion that the country had “turned the corner” on fighting the coronavirus.

“Hello Arizona,” Trump told the crowd. “And hello to everybody right here in Nevada,” although the airport is in Arizona.

Trump played the states’ two governors against each other. Arizona’s GOP Gov. Doug Ducey attended the event where Trump praised him for opening up Arizona. “You look good, Doug,” Trump said.

Trump faulted Sisolak for not opening up Nevada for business, and serving as the head of a “political club.” “We have states where you can only protest, you can’t do anything else,” like go to church or have dinner with your family, Trump complained.

It was a warm, sunny afternoon for the rally as an unmasked Trump playfully donned a MAGA hat to battle the wind and said he would “look like a lobster tomorrow.” At the end of the rally, Trump danced to the Village People’s hit “YMCA.”

Before Trump arrived, the crowd occasionally chanted, “CNN sucks.”

More popular than Reagan?

After the crowd chanted, “We love you,” Trump said that if former Republican President Ronald Reagan ever came to Bullhead City, he might have drawn “a couple of hundred people legitimately.”

Trump entertained his base with two videos — one of Democratic governors praising his coronavirus response and another of gaffes made by former Vice President Joe Biden.

While Hillary Clinton beat Trump in Nevada by 2.4 percent in 2016, the president long has maintained that he can win Nevada in November. Trump carried Arizona in 2016 by 3.5 points.

The RealClearPolitics polling average shows Biden leading Trump in Arizona by 2.2 percent, and carrying Nevada by 4.6 points.

Trump nonetheless argued that he was up in Nevada and concerned about the Nevada governor because he is part of “a political club.”

“They send out millions of ballots. They found some in the garbage can with the name Trump on it, military ones,” Trump said. But a Trump campaign aide later told the Review-Journal that Trump “seems to be mixing up two states,” and apparently was referring to Pennsylvania where one county found a handful of discarded military ballots. According to Reuters, seven of those nine ballots had been cast for Trump.

But Sisolak said at his news conference: “I don’t have anybody’s ballots. I’ve never seen or found any ballots in the garbage can, and I think sometimes this is just exaggeration,” he said. In Nevada, the governor has no role in elections, which are handled by county officials and overseen by the secretary of state.

“We do have law enforcement watching in your state,” Trump told his rally crowd.

Endorsed by business groups

Before flying to the rally, Trump in a brief news conference at his eponymous hotel received the endorsements of several Nevada business groups, including the Nevada Trucking Association, the Retail Association of Nevada, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Nevada and Startup Nevada.

Trump’s visit comes as Nevada finds itself in the “red zone” for COVID cases, according to a White House report. Nevada COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage said on Thursday, “We are in an upward trend.”

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security reported Wednesday that U.S. COVID-19 cases continue to rise and are almost as high as July’s peak of 63,589 cases per day.

Battle Born Progress Executive Director Annette Magnus criticized Trump on the subject of the coronavirus.

“The fact is, attendees to these rallies face a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 at these events where masses of people gather and neither mask-wearing nor social distancing is meaningfully enforced,” she said in a statement. “Those attendees may go on to spread the virus to others they interact with in their everyday lives, which needlessly puts vulnerable people at risk in our community.”

Ahead of the rally, Nevada Rep. Dina Titus and Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego released a joint statement: “As Donald Trump tries to save his sinking campaign in Arizona and Nevada today, it’s clear that the stakes of this election have never been higher,” the statement reads.

“Trump has openly called for the Affordable Care Act to be terminated, leaving health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of Arizonans and Nevadans hanging in the balance. And by giving up on containing the pandemic, Trump is abandoning our small businesses and working families who desperately need economic relief and leadership in the White House. Arizona and Nevada families deserve leaders who will fight for them and help them build back better. The only way we will recover from Trump’s failed leadership is to vote early for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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