It’s no secret that the former president’s relationship with the state is a complicated one.
While he has a firm grip on the state’s Republican Party, he lost Nevada in two consecutive presidential campaigns — by almost 3 percentage points in 2020. As the Trump campaign turns its attention to the battleground state, the former president on Saturday hinted at this challenge.
“We have a big job to do. This has been a hard state. I really believe it’s a Republican state,” Trump said. “This is the most important election in the history of our country.”
There were a few theatrics from Trump, who from the outset stressed the purpose of the relatively small event. As usual when speaking 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 coming, delivering some lines with gusto as he repeated familiar falsehoods about the 2020 election he lost and harped on how he would fix the country’s elections, including in Nevada. The winding speech also hit on the border, China, critical race theory, transgender people and a medley of the former president’s greatest hits.
Trump drew cheers when he rattled off names of Nevada GOP power brokers, including state party chair Michael McDonald, who served as a so-called “fake elector” in 2020. McDonald testified last month before a Washington federal grand jury investigating Jan. 6 and the former president’s efforts to stay in office.
“Michael McDonald has been my friend for a long time,” Trump said.
The Nevada GOP, under McDonald’s leadership, is suing the state government for moving away from the caucus format that relies heavily on grassroots support and benefitted Trump eight years ago. The 2024 primary, likely to fall sometime in February, is set to move to a traditional, state-run primary.
Trump took multiple opportunities to knock Ron DeSantis, a few weeks after the Florida governor campaigned at the Basque Fry barbecue fundraiser in the state. DeSantis’ message during that event, without naming Trump, was that if Republicans want to beat a Democrat in 2024, they need to move beyond the former president.
“I’m not a big fan of his, and he’s highly overrated,” Trump said. “He’s getting killed. … He also has no personality. That helps, right? As a politician, you have to have personality.”
Polling in the state has been more scarce than some of the other early primary states, but in early polls, Trump has a hefty lead on DeSantis by upward of 30 percentage points, while the other GOP contenders lag in the single digits.
As he wrapped his short address, Trump hinted at bigger things to come as campaign season progresses.
“I just want to thank you all for volunteering and being with us, and we love you,” Trump said. “And we’ll be back many times, and we’ve got a couple of really big rallies scheduled over the next couple of months, and we’ll have 60, 70,000 people at these rallies.”