Early voting in Nevada is underway, and political candidates are doing whatever they can to appeal to voters in the waning days of the election. And this weekend, the Republicans called out the big guns to stump on their behalf –President Donald Trump. As KUNR’s Paul Boger reports, the president held a rally in the heart of conservative Nevada, Elko, to bolster support ahead of the general.
It was a bright, cloudless day in northeastern Nevada when Air Force One touched down on the tarmac of the Elko Regional Airport Saturday. Stepping out of the plane, flanked by Nevada’s Republican U.S. Senator Dean Heller and his wife, the president was greeted by thousands of cheering supporters.
The president’s latest trip marked his 13th visit to the state since announcing his run for president in 2015. It also ended a three-state swing through the West to drum-up support for Republican candidates. And, the president wasted no time in completing his mission – taking Democrats to task.
"The Democrat Party has become an angry, ruthless, unhinged mob determined to get power by any means necessary,” Trump said. “Your vote in this election will decide which party controls Congress. The choice for every American could not be more clear."
Throughout his hour-long speech, Trump characterized the midterm election as a possible watershed moment in his presidency, and that the only way he could continue to push for his “America First” agenda was with Republicans like Dean Heller in the Senate.
Heller, who’s facing a tough reelection bid against Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, took a moment to speak to the crowd, thanking the president for his endorsement and giving him credit for the region’s economic success. "Mr. President this is not the swamp,” Heller said.
“Now, Mr. President, you know a little bit about gold. In fact, I think everything you touch turns to gold."
Heller isn’t the only Republican who’s received Trump’s endorsement. Gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt also used his time with the president to reiterate his campaign’s theme; a vote for him is a vote to retain Nevada’s conservative, Western culture.
"The president cares about rural Nevada,” said Laxalt. “He knows how important you all are, how important that we keep the economy going. He has helped bring Elko to three percent unemployment. How about that? We have to keep this momentum going and we have a clear choice for this state. Are we going to keep Nevada the Nevada that we all love, this independent, Western state? Or are we going to turn into California?"
And for some in Elko, it’s a message that’s resonating this election cycle. Jana Lupercio, a homemaker from the area, attended the rally with her husband and teenage daughter. She says she worried about liberal values infiltrating the state.
"We have to keep our conservative values and I think the Democrats put those at risk,” Lupercio said. “I think that things will go negatively for our schools. I think liberal values will come into our schools and into our communities and into, possibly, our churches."
For others at the rally like heavy truck mechanic Steven Garcia, this election offers an opportunity to further limit the opposition from Democrats.
"Get rid of these Democrats that keep obstructing so we can get health care going, reiterated Garcia. “Get the Medicare, get the Medicaid, get our health insurance back up and going, properly."
And that may be what President Trump wanted voters to take away.
"For the sake of our freedom,” Trump continued. “For the sake of our children. We are going to work. We are going to fight. And we are going to win, win, win. Very simple."
Despite the president’s pitch, Republicans in Nevada are still facing tough elections. Moments after Trump’s departure, Democrats, mostly campaigning in Las Vegas, began to rail against both Heller and Laxalt for their close ties to a president who, although controversial, is enjoying some of the highest approval ratings of his tenure.