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John L. Smith: Stricken With COVID, Can Trump Gain Ground In Nevada?


(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump, left, walks out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to return to the White House after receiving treatments for COVID-19, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Bethesda, Md.


Hospitalized after a COVID-19 infection, President Donald Trump finds himself trailing in the polls in Nevada by six points with election day less than a month away.

So, Vice President Mike Pence is headed here and to Arizona, considered a key battleground state.

But with the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis and quarantine, what are his chances in Nevada?

“With the president’s COVID diagnosis, a lot has changed, certainly campaigning style for one,” said Nevada Public Radio contributor John L. Smith, “But leading up to that, the numbers clearly have shifted.”

Smith said the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, which was really lopsided, showed Democratic candidate Joe Biden leading the president 53 percent to 39 percent nationally.

That is not all. Smith said a poll shows what people think of how President Trump has handled the pandemic.

“Another survey, showing that two out of three Americans feel the president has mishandled the COVID crisis,” he said, “Probably, the last thing, I think, the president wanted to do was wind up coming down with it.”

Smith said the Trump campaign is rolling out Vice President Pence and Trump family members to shore up support in some of the swing western states.

Support comes from

“This is definitely an area where they need to shore up support,” he said, “Things that seemed secure are no longer secure in the case of Arizona. And Nevada, which was very close depending on your survey, I mean, four points just a week or so ago, and it seems to have stretched.”

Smith said a couple of polls are showing six points and more for Biden in Nevada.

The vice president will be in Utah Wednesday for the debate with Democratic Veep candidate Kamala Harris.

Smith said the campaigns are out of the persuasion part of the effort and are now into the “ground game” time, which means getting everyone who said they were going to vote fired up and to the polls.

Last week’s debate did not go well for the president. According to several polls, many people thought President Trump lost the debate and perhaps lost ground with voters.

There are people who think that with the president being off the campaign trail because of his COVID diagnosis there may be more stable rhetoric coming from the Trump campaign.

Smith said he agreed that could happen and that is where the president’s surrogates, like his sons and daughters, come in. Although, Smith notes Donald Trump, Jr. and others do use fierier language on the stump.

“They’re more likely to talk about fire and brimstone and world war three if the Democrats get elected, rather than what does the incumbent have to offer going forward for the next four years,” he said.

In years past, it would be senators or other elected officials hitting the campaign trail for the president, but with Donald Trump, we’re seeing his kids hit the trail for him.

“This is complicated. This has kind of been a one-man performance on the president’s part, often to the regret of a lot of folks who wish he would be more of an administrator,” he said, “That’s where we’re at and this is kind of what we get.”

On the Democratic side of the equation have sent vice presidential candidate Harris out to campaign for their ticket. She was in Nevada and she’ll be in Utah for Wednesday’s debate.

“I think the Democrats right now are seeing a lot of opportunity,” Smith said, “They’re seeing people softening their support for the president. He’s a guy who loves a crowd and this is just not the right time to be drawing a crowd like that.”

Smith doesn’t believe the president does as well in small rooms, but instead, likes a big theater.


The presidential debate shined a light on the right-wing group known as the Proud Boys, after the president didn’t denounce the group, and in fact, told them to “stand back and stand by.”

He later denounced white supremacy during an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity.

“There is definitely a Proud Boy presence in Las Vegas,” Smith said, “There is a chapter here.”

With that said, Smith noted that it can be difficult to say exactly how many people are involved because of the nature of how they are organized and how people communicate through the internet.

“There is also clear evidence, if you will, that there has been a sizable Proud Boys turnout at these no-mask events that have taken place both in the south outside of city hall and up north outside of the Governor’s Mansion.”

In addition to the Proud Boys presence at those events, another movement known as the Boogaloo Boys was there as well and the group known as the Three Percenter Militias, Smith said.


The governor announced that more activities could reopen in Nevada, including organized youth and adult sports leagues.

Smith said there is a risk when you reopen, but he said other parts of the country have done it.

“I think the governor is clearly focused with people on the ground, if you will, looking at those numbers, looking at the recovery rate,” he said, “You’re seeing a lot of stability in the hospitals now, and so, I have to wonder whether this is just an experiment, for instance.”

Smith explained that the state can justify reopening activities, like youth sports, on the way towards re-opening schools and other important things in our society, like the Raiders stadium.

“To me, if you’re opening the youth sports, there may be a time, before the NFL season is over, where socially distanced fans might be able to be there,” he said, “But that’s probably complicated by the league and a lot of things.”

Smith wonders if youth sports reopening will leave people to wonder why if kids can play, adults can’t.


Smith notes that gaming in Las Vegas is a big game and no longer a place with niche casinos.

“These megaresorts are that size for a reason. They draw big crowds and that’s the challenge. That will always be the challenge, even after there is a vaccine,” he said, “I believe this should represent a sea change for the gaming industry. This is a warning that other things can happen and so you need to be able to think ahead. I think the industry moved quickly but it was essentially caught flat-footed by the devastation of COVID-19.”




John L. Smith, contributor

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