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How important is Nevada to Biden's presidential campaign?

President Joe Biden speaks about health care and prescription drug costs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Las Vegas.
John Locher
Associated Press
President Joe Biden speaks about health care and prescription drug costs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Las Vegas.

President Biden was in Nevada this week as part of a campaign swing through the southwest. His visit came just days after more than 900 Nevadans announced their candidacy for state and local offices.

How important is Nevada to the presidential campaign, and what do voters want to see from candidates as they prepare to vote in the June primary?

According to Nevada Current Editor Hugh Jackson, it's hard to say.

"We've seen a lot of polling that shows that voters have just checked out they are not paying attention," he said. "Casual voters, including a lot of independent voters who will end up deciding the presidency in battleground states, such as Nevada, are just not paying attention. They seem to be aggressively ignoring the presidential campaign with malice [and] who can blame them? Nobody wants this rerun between Trump and Biden."

One reason voters may not pay attention is that the state has seen a significant increase in the number of voters registering as nonpartisan – which became the state's largest voting bloc last year.

Amy Tarkanian is the former Chair of the Nevada Republican Party but was kicked out of the party in 2022 when she endorsed Democratic incumbents over their Republican challengers. She told KNPR's State of Nevada that she has seen neither the Trump nor Biden campaigns reach out to voters like her.

"When it comes down to it, both candidates, Trump and Biden are going to need the independents, nonpartisans, soft Democrats and centrist Republicans," she said. "They're just not catering to either of those [voters]."

So, what issues are top of mind for those voters?

Recent polling from Emerson College/KLAS-TV/The Hill found that the economy was the top issue for 26% of Nevada voters, followed by immigration (14%), education (14%), housing affordability (13%), and healthcare (11%).

For Tarkanian, those numbers fall in line with what she's been hearing from neighbors and friends.

"Are you going to take care of the border?" Tarkanian asked. Are you going to make sure that our economy is going to be stable? I think those are the two scenarios that we are most concerned about our safety, the border, and making sure that our money is being spent properly so that we can spend it properly."

One race that is sure to garner interest is the US Senate campaign in which incumbent Democrat Jacky Rosen is looking to keep her seat against a slew of Republican challengers – chief among them is former Army Capt. Sam Brown.

Brown has already received the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign – the fundraising arm of Senate Republicans. However, his opponents in the June Primary have criticized those ties with national Republicans saying they're not conservative enough. Instead, the remaining GOP Senate contenders have been working to garner the attention of former President Trump in a bid to gain traction ahead of early voting in late May.

However, will that jockeying for favor lead to a chaotic primary season? Jackson thinks it could.

"Trump presumably will come in and endorse some time," said Jackson. "I think he's probably going to endorse Brown. But you know, here's a bit of flibbertigibbet."

Guests: Amy Tarkanian, former chair, Nevada GOP; Hugh Jackson, editor, The Nevada Current

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Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.