(Headline USA) Kicking off a Western swing, President Donald Trump barreled into Nevada for the weekend, looking to expand his path to victory while unleashing a torrent of claims that Democrats were trying to steal the election.
Trump defied local authorities by holding a Saturday night rally in Minden, near Lake Tahoe, after his initial plan to hold one in Reno was stopped out of concern it would have violated coronavirus health guidelines. Speaking for 90-plus minutes, Trump claimed the state’s Democratic governor tried to block him and repeated his claim that massive numbers of mail-in ballots present the opportunity to taint the election result.
“This is the guy we are entrusting with millions of ballots, unsolicited ballots, and we’re supposed to win these states. Who the hell is going to trust him?” Trump said of Gov. Steve Sisolak. “The only way the Democrats can win the election is if they rig it.”
Lawyers for the president’s reelection campaign are urging a federal judge in Las Vegas to block a state law and prevent mail-in ballots from going to all active Nevada voters less than eight weeks before the election.
Addressing a mostly mask-less crowd tightly packed together, Trump spoke in front of mountains draped in haze, the scent of smoke in the air from wildfires raging a state away in California. The president expressed his condolences to the victims.
Trump claimed that the Democrat’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, would be president “in about a month” if Joe Biden won, asserting that the former vice president would be but a figurehead and that Harris would hold power. He claimed that the media would treat Biden “like Winston Churchill” if he was able to merely stand on the debate stage in three weeks. And embarking on a swing that would also include stops in Las Vegas and Phoenix, Trump mocked Biden’s slower travel schedule. “You know where he is now? He is in his damn basement again!”
Trump also offered a fierce defense of his handling of the pandemic. And he blamed Democratic governors across the nation, including Sisolak, for deliberately slowing the pace of reopening their states to hurt his election chances.
State Republicans claimed Sisolak tried to stop the rally, but the decision to cancel the Reno event was allegedly made by airport officials. Sisolak has limited in-person gatherings indoors and outdoors to 50 people since May.
Several thousand people covered the tarmac in Minden, including Tom Lenz, 64, of Sparks, Nevada, who said he didn’t vote for Trump last time.
“But I will this time. I think he knows what he’s doing,” said Lenz. “He’s pro-faith, pro-life, he’s made more peace in the world. Biden can’t even talk.”
Trump narrowly lost Nevada in 2016 to Clinton, and the state has trended further toward the Democrats in the past decade. But Trump’s campaign has invested heavily in the state, relying on its ground game to turn out voters. Democrats, by contrast, have largely relied on virtual campaign efforts during the pandemic, save for the casino workers’ Culinary Union, which has sent workers door to door.
The White House announced Saturday that, while out west, Trump will also visit California on Monday to receive a briefing on the devastating wildfires racing through the region.
Some Democrats fear a possible Trump momentum gain in Nevada, with the president showing increasing support from Latinos and non-college education white voters, two important constituencies in the state.
The tightening race in a number of the most contested states, including increasing concern on the president’s team about Arizona, has led to a renewed effort for Trump to expand his electoral map.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.