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John L. Smith On Pres. Trump's Campaign Efforts In Nevada

<p>President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Henderson.</p>
Associated Press
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President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Henderson.

President Donald Trump has some ground to make up if he wants to win Nevada in November.

Recent polls show him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by 4 points in a state Hillary Clinton won in 2016. 

But it’s clear the Trump campaign continues to press ahead with the election a little more than one month away.

The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., is scheduled to appear in Sparks later this week. 

While the president wants to win Nevada and other western swing states, a bombshell report by the New York Times detailing the president's taxes over the past several years might need to be addressed by the campaign, said State of Nevada contributor John L. Smith.

"Bottom line is: Donald Trump Jr. was not headed to Nevada to start talking about his father's business transactions," Smith said. 

The Times reported the president incurred $400 million in debts to Deutsche Bank, which Smith notes is an "awful lot of money."

But beyond the money, the report removes a veneer of success from the president. 

"It really peels back and exposes what a lot of folks have believed for a long time that the president is not that super billionaire that he imagines or that he portrays," Smith said.

Smith believes the report will have an impact on Tuesday's presidential debate, but he also believes it will impact how surrogates on the stump for the president will approach their jobs.

"They're going to have questions asked of them at every turn about this development," he said, "It is going to complicate things for people who really want to stick with the red meat and keep the base fired up and excited about going to the polls."

Smith has been keeping an eye on what Donald Trump Jr. has been saying during his campaign stops. He said the rhetoric has stuck to the same general themes, that some have called fearmongering.

For instance, during a speech in Chandler, Arizona, the president's son demonized a new California law that changes how a judge can rule in cases of statutory rape.

Trump Jr. claimed the law would legalize pedophilia, which it does not.

"The law itself is written by law enforcement out of a sense of fairness to people of different sexual orientation," he said, "You're talking about someone who is really, in my mind, grasping." 

Smith said it seems that the Trump campaign is focusing on this law because it's decided not to go after people still on the fence.

"They appear to be trying to fire up their base, get them excited enough to turn out as they did in 2016, in an impressive fashion," he said, "These are the kinds of issues that foment fear and kind of stoke prejudices, and frankly, that has worked in the past."

Trump Jr. is not the only presidential surrogate in the West. Vice President Mike Pence was in Arizona and the president's daughter Ivanka Trump visited. Eric Trump was also in Arizona and Nevada, stumping for his father.

"There is really a focus on...trying to gain in Nevada electoral votes that Hillary Clinton won in the past election and trying to hold on to those 11 electoral votes in Arizona," Smith said.

Arizona could be a little tougher than in 2016, Smith said. He described the polls as not being "not necessarily friendly" to the president right now.

The president himself has taken aim at Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. Smith believes given recent developments President Trump and his surrogates have "bigger fish to fry," but he notes the president likes "to punch down" in weight class.

"So, you've got the president speaking out regularly on Sisolak when he's around Nevada," he said, "And I would imagine that Donald Trump Jr. will pick the same fight because when you can fly in and point fingers amid a pandemic." 

But down-ticket one of the most interesting races might between incumbent Congresswoman Susie Lee, D-NV., and her opponent Republican Dan Rodimer. 

"It's interesting - this is clearly, with the amount of money that's flowed into this race, this is clearly a place, where at least in a schematic chart, the Republicans believe they might pick up a seat," Smith said. 

However, Lee has a congressional track record, which includes reaching across the aisle, plus she has money of her own to spend. Smith said if you watch TV in Southern Nevada is hard to get away from attack ads from both sides.

John L. Smith, contributor

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.
Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.