Purple Politics Nevada returns: A conversation with NPR’s Domenico Montanaro about the 2024 election
Purple Politics Nevada is back! Season 2 will focus on Nevada politics and the 2024 election.
For the first episode, host Lucia Starbuck spoke with NPR’s senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro about the Silver State’s role in the 2024 election, the presidential primary, and issues on the minds of voters and candidates.
Nevada will be the third state in the nation to hold its primary for the 2024 presidential election, and in 2022, Nevada was one of the few states that determined control of the Senate. But so far, not many presidential hopefuls have made campaign stops in Nevada. Montanaro answers the essential question: Does Nevada really matter?
“It’s a super pivotal role because it’s a pivotal state. It’s been close for every election cycle I can remember since 2000,” Montanaro said. “As divided as the country is ... every electoral vote counts.”
When it comes to the issues on the minds of voters, Montanaro said that based on the ads he’s seen, Democrats will continue to campaign on protecting access to abortion, whereas Republicans will keep their focus on crime. Voters have various concerns, such as education, climate change, and the economy.
“The economy sort of lends itself to how people are feeling and whether or not they are satisfied with the direction of the country,” Montanaro said. “I think that is going to be an overarching theme of the election certainly because that’s the main thing people care about. Can they put food on the table? Can they afford stuff that they want? Can they send their kids to school?”
When asked if democracy is at risk of dying, Montanaro said there are danger signs, such as a lack of trust in institutions such as media and law enforcement, but he believes this country is undergoing a political shift, and he’s looking forward to 2028.
“I do think we’re going to see something of a reset in 2028, because even if it’s Trump and Biden running, neither of them will be qualified to be president again in 2028,” Montanaro said. “You’re going to have a huge open field on both sides. That’s going to be really interesting to see who picks up the mantle of what and how they define what it means to be American.”
Listen to this month’s episode of Purple Politics Nevada as host Lucia Starbuck speaks with NPR’s senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro.
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LUCIA STARBUCK, HOST: Welcome back to Purple Politics Nevada! I’m your host, Lucia Starbuck. The name reflects the fact that the state isn’t red or blue – it’s both.
For Season 2, I’m going to follow Nevada politics and the 2024 election. To help put it all in context, I’m with Domenico Montanaro, NPR’s senior political editor and correspondent. Thanks so much for joining me.
DOMENICO MONTANARO: Thanks for having me.
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STARBUCK: Let’s get started – what role do you think Nevada will play in the 2024 election?
MONTANARO: I mean it’s a super pivotal role because it’s a pivotal state. It’s been close for every election cycle I can remember since 2000. Just a couple points really separated President Biden and then-President Trump in the last election. As divided as the country is and as a few votes has really decided, you know, every electoral vote counts. And it’s also an early primary state.
STARBUCK: It seems that states are always jockeying to be first in the nation. Nevada is third, and it has been for a while. Why is it so important for states to be early?
MONTANARO: They get a lot of media attention and that brings in a lot of money. That’s one reason why the former Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed for that, to be able to get some geographic diversity at the top of when the primaries are happening, but also to draw some attention to Nevada to get television ads, campaign visits, and to draw attention to the issues that matter to Nevadans.
STARBUCK: We’re only four months away from Nevada’s primary in February, but only a handful of Republican presidential hopefuls have visited us so far. Are we being written off?
MONTANARO: There is a definite bias, it seems on the part of a lot of the candidates, where they don’t spend as much time in Nevada. There are fewer delegates and fewer media to really give them the kind of attention that they would need to be able to be propelled into a matchup; let’s say if you’re a Republican and you want some momentum to be able to be the principal alternative to former President Trump, you need to win in some of those early places.
STARBUCK: What issues do you think are going to be on the minds of voters, and what issues do you think politicians are going to be talking about?
MONTANARO: I think it’s interesting that, clearly, Democrats have been able to use the Dobbs decision and abortion rights as a key motivator for their base, and they’ve been doing that, and they continue to do that. For the Republicans, they’re really focused on crime.
The economy obviously is the big thing. But it’s kind of hard to run ads on the economy if you are a Democrat because your president is the one who’s in charge. And there’s a real mixed view of what the economy is.
I think the economy sort of lends itself to how people are feeling and whether or not they are satisfied with the direction of the country. I think that that is going to be an overarching theme of the election certainly because that’s the main thing people care about. Can they put food on the table? Can they afford stuff that they want? Can they send their kids to school?
There are other issues that are, obviously, very important to people, guns, in either direction, climate change.
STARBUCK: When it comes to young people or young voters, particularly Gen Z, are feeling that democracy does not go far enough. They feel that they don’t have a voice on issues like rising prices, climate change. What does it mean if young people are feeling this way?
MONTANARO: Young people are always the most difficult for a campaign to motivate to go out to vote. The thinking has always been that as you gain responsibility, houses, kids, you become more engaged in politics. I’m not sure that’s a hundred percent true, because I’ve seen a lot of engagement with younger voters, but they feel a definite dissonance with the current political system.
A lot of things we hear from them, the older generation just doesn’t get them and doesn’t get their issues. That comes up in Congress quite a bit; they had a very difficult time and have had a very difficult time navigating discussions around tech.
STARBUCK: Do you think democracy is at risk of dying in the United States?
MONTANARO: For a small question, right? I think it’s very difficult to pin down where the country is. I think that there are some warning signs when you look at the decline in trust in lots of institutions, the media included, the courts, law enforcement, federal law enforcement. I think that that can lend to the idea that democracy is in danger.
I do think that the country has gone through different periods of political shifts. I think we’re undergoing a political shift currently. White working-class voters used to be a key pillar of the Democratic base. They’re now shifted more culturally to Republicans. College-educated voters, in the days of Nelson Rockefeller, were very staunch Republicans. Now that’s flipped. I think that there are still these fights that are happening in the suburbs for voters who can go either direction, maybe nonpartisan voters.
I do think we’re going to see something of a reset in 2028, because even if it’s Trump and Biden running, neither of them will be qualified to be president again in 2028. And you’re going to have a huge open field on both sides. That’s going to be really interesting to see who picks up the mantle of what and how they define what it means to be American because I do think that that is a huge question that a lot of people are trying to figure out.
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STARBUCK: I can’t wait for 2028 then. That was senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Thanks so much for speaking with me.
MONTANARO: Thanks again. Happy to be here.
STARBUCK: I’m Lucia Starbuck, and you’re listening to Purple Politics Nevada.
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The theme song, “Vibe Ace” by Kevin MacLeod, is licensed under Creative Commons and was edited for this episode.