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Trump campaign insists Nevada is in play for GOP

Updated September 9, 2020 - 7:39 am

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s campaign team sees two paths to turn Nevada red, campaign manager Bill Stepien and top staff revealed during a call with reporters Tuesday.

Trump will make two stops for campaign rallies in Nevada this weekend, one in Reno on Saturday and one in Las Vegas on Sunday. The rallies and rhetoric leave no doubt that the Trump team believes Nevada is in play four years after Hillary Clinton won the Silver State by 2.4 percentage points.

The Trump campaign laid out seven scenarios that all end with a Trump Electoral College win and none that showed Trump losing. The scenarios ranged from “landslide” — with Trump claiming 356 Electoral College votes and winning Nevada — to a squeaker Southwest grab that also would turn Nevada red but end with an Electoral College tally of 270 votes for Trump to 268 for former Vice President Joe Biden.

In five of the seven scenarios laid out by the Trump campaign, the Biden-Harris ticket wins Nevada.

Stepien also said that in July, Trump went from being down 6 percentage points to being up 2 percentage points among Nevada voters.

State Sen. Yvanna Cancela, a Biden senior adviser, responded that Nevada is a “historically challenging to poll.”

Cancela cited a recent Qualtrics/BUSR poll that showed Biden leading 44 percent to 39 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

“There’s no question that like any other election cycle, Nevada’s a battleground state,” Cancela said.

Rallying during pandemic

It is unclear how the rallies will play among voters.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, Trump is endangering Nevadans’ health and safety with in-person rallies in a desperate bid to spin his ineffective management of the coronavirus crisis and dangerous economic policies, which have left working families behind at every turn,” Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II said in a statement.

While the Trump camp was short on details, the airport venues suggest quick turn-around events like other recent rallies the president has held at airport hangars and tarmacs as a nod to the benefits of fresh air and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Air Force One is scheduled to touch down at Reno-Tahoe International Airport on Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. Great American Comeback Event. On Sunday, there will be a 7 p.m. rally at Cirrus Aviation near McCarran International Airport. According to the campaign, masks, hand sanitizer and temperature checks will be given to every attendee at the event.

The White House does not release information on where the president stays on overnight trips, but when in Las Vegas, he is known to stay at his eponymous Trump International. A source associated with the campaign confirmed that there will be a fundraiser Sunday, although its location is unknown.

Coronavirus limits

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom told the Review-Journal that Trump should consult Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a fellow Democrat who issued a directive that bans events with more than 50 people to slow the spread of the coronavirus. “Just because he’s president, that doesn’t mean he can violate the governor’s orders,” Segerblom said.

“I think we should have our county business licensing investigators there,” Segerblom said. Those officials could order an event shutdown or issue fines to the venue for violating the governor’s directive. “This is illegal. This is so critical to Nevada. Our future is really the COVID thing,” Segerblom said.

But Segerblom allowed Trump’s decision to hold rallies in Reno and Las Vegas “indicates that he does think he has a chance in Nevada. That means we Democrats have to up our game. On the flip side, if he thinks he needs Nevada, he’s in trouble.”

Republicans do have a chance to win the Silver State, according to longtime Republican ad maker Sig Rogich.

“I think Nevada’s in play, and I think it’s going to be determined by the turnout model,” Rogich said. That doesn’t mean Trump will win, but he does have a chance with good organization and a good turnout effort.

“They (Nevada voters) haven’t adopted Joe Biden yet as their candidate,” Rogich added. “They may have disgruntlement with Trump, but it seems to me that they’re looking at the economy again.”

In April 2019, Stepien told the Review-Journal, “At this point, nothing tells me that we can’t win Nevada.”

On the Tuesday call, Stepien did note a new hurdle — a new elections law passed by the Democratic Legislature and signed by Sisolak that Stepien alleged would “radically overhaul” how the state votes by mailing ballots to all active registered voters, which he said could present an advantage for Biden.

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

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