Nevada’s importance in the 2020 presidential election continues to grow as the campaigns rumble toward November 3.
Just last week, Vice President Mike Pence made a campaign stop in Boulder City. Former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden countered with a Friday visit to Las Vegas Latino voters. On Monday, Ivanka Trump made a Las Vegas appearance.
"At this point, the Trump campaign, like the Biden campaign, they're looking at that big map and the big map says that there are only so many areas that the Trump campaign can make in-roads in," State of Nevada contributor John L. Smith said.
Smith said some states are "essentially over," others are solidly in the "Trump fold," but a "handful" of others have "possibilities."
"Remember that Trump ran surprisingly competitively in 2016. He lost to Hillary Clinton in Nevada but he was competitive and it was closer down the stretch," he said.
In addition, Smith noted that the president has a lot of friends in the state with a lot of big money, including casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who just donated $75 million to an anti-Biden political action committee.
He believes the relationship with the Adelsons is partly why the president's daughter Ivanka Trump was in town.
Since Biden's campaign has brought in a lot more money than the Trump campaign, he suspects there may be some "hand-holding" and re-assuring going on in Las Vegas this week.
On the Democratic, Smith sees a reason for Biden picking up steam.
"You've also got the reality of Joe Biden," he said, "A lot of people see him as a relief to the madness or the chaos of Donald Trump's White House. He's not the first person they think of when they get up in the morning, but he is obviously gaining in popularity as the world turns in the Trump administration."
Smith stopped by Vice President Mike Pence's speech in Boulder City. He noted it is tough to have a rah-rah rally when the crowd is limited to 250 people because of COVID-19 mitigation restrictions.
Smith did see someone selling MAGA and Trump Forever hats in front of the event.
"But normally, a Trump rally is more like the circus coming to town than essentially a sideshow," he said.
As for the speech itself, he said it was "refreshing" in that there were no "histrionics."
"He touched on much of the same topics that he does," Smith said, "It's all about guns and God and patriotism and backing the police and all of that. So, that's not so much of a surprise, but I'm just drawn to the contrast of this understated fellow, with his understated spouse, making an appearance."
"We could call it a 'flyover,'" Smith quipped, referencing the fly that landed and stayed on the veep's head during the debate with candidate Kamala Harris.
But in reality, Smith called Pence's speech "calming" and a "more normal" presentation of conservative views.
On the other side, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden stopped in Southern Nevada.
"I think that Biden was smart to come to Southern Nevada," Smith said, "Especially smart to go to the Latino community to remind that very essential voting bloc that he's there for them."
Smith said that Biden got big press coverage in Spanish-speaking media in Southern Nevada.
"It was kind of a standard speech," he said, "He likes to talk about his family and working-class values. It's been what he's about for a long time. He's not shy about calling up the president for the COVID response and the pandemic and the losses to the nation."
In his speech, the former VP talks about the empty chair at the kitchen table, which Smith calls "a pretty powerful image."
Smith believes the speech Biden gave plays to his base and might reach any undecided voters with the idea that he's taking the pandemic seriously.
On the other hand, President Trump has said "don't be afraid of COVID."
"It is certainly going to please the folks who believe in him," Smith said, "There is a kind of sense of he's a mighty and strong character - if you will."
However, Smith guesses the image of the president may not hold up as death tolls rise, the number injured permanently from the virus expand, and the hospitalizations increase because of the new surge of cases that many health experts are predicting this fall.
Smith believes there is a bit of fatigue surrounding President Trump, even by supporters, with the controversy around the handling of the pandemic, and the economic bailout.
"You've got some real questions even from folks who believe in him," he said, "Those who don't believe in him, their opinions are affirmed."
In terms of voter registration, the Silver State is bluer with registered Democrats and nonpartisan independents outnumbering Republicans.
And the latest polls have moved from four points to six points in favor of Biden. Most pundits say Nevada is no longer a swing state but is decidedly Democratic.
John L. Smith, contributor
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