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Ahead of Nevada primary, Biden uses Las Vegas rally to draw contrasts with Trump

Nevada’s looming Democratic presidential primary receded to the background Sunday as the president looked to shore up his base for the general election.
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Election 2024

Less than two days before Nevadans head to the polls for the state’s presidential primary, President Joe Biden blasted former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about the economy as “un-American” and touted successfully passing major legislation and making national economic improvements during his first three years in office at a campaign stop in Southern Nevada.

Inside a small gymnasium at a community center in Las Vegas’ Historic Westside, Biden delivered a 30-minute speech to a crowd of about 200, largely attacking Trump and taking credit for legislative wins, while only mentioning the primary in passing. The pro-Biden crowd spent most of the speech cheering, breaking only to boo Trump or Republicans or to chant “four more years.” 

Long criticized for an economy wracked by inflation, Biden held up the economy — amid stabilizing inflation and continued jobs growth — as the strongest of any major country in the world.

“And let me tell you something else, you know who’s noticing this?” Biden asked the crowd. “Trump.”

Biden compared his likely general election opponent to Herbert Hoover, a reference to the one-term president, who served from 1929 to 1933, and is known for policies that exacerbated the Great Depression. He also described Trump’s comments predicting an economic crash and hoping it occurs in 2024 as “un-American.”

His visit comes a day after he recorded a dominating win in the South Carolina Democratic primary, garnering more than 96 percent of the vote. 

In Nevada, he faces only long shot candidates and is expected to cruise to victory in the primary, continuing his path to lock up the party’s nomination.

Nearly 95,000 Nevada voters have already cast their ballots in the Democratic primary as of Saturday morning — nearly as many as the 105,000 voters that participated in Nevada’s highly competitive presidential caucus in 2020.

His primary election success has come amid a series of polls that show a divided American public. A national NBC News poll released Sunday showed Biden trailing Trump by 5 points, while another national poll from Quinnipiac University showed Biden leading by 6 points — though that lead disappears in a hypothetical election that includes third-party candidates. 

The most recent Nevada polls on the general election matchup have found Trump leading by 2 points and by 8 points in a head-to-head matchup.

Biden’s polls have sagged, in part, over concerns from voters about the president’s age. Biden, who turned 81 last year, would be 86 at the end of a second term. 

But the Biden faithful have shrugged off such concerns.

Hilary Moscowitz, 48, of Las Vegas said in an interview, “I haven’t really thought about” the president’s age and said she liked Biden for being an “everyman” president. 

“It's just a number to me,” she said. “If he’s doing what’s right for this country, then he’s doing what’s right for this country.”

The Rev. Karen Anderson was among a small group who met with Biden to discuss local issues ahead of Sunday’s speech. She told The Nevada Independent that she wasn’t sure if Black or young voters in Nevada were as excited for Biden this go around. 

“I've heard the disappointment, particularly among a lot of young adults who say they're not going to vote,” Anderson said. “They're more concerned about his age and his ability to do the job where they're not looking at what he has accomplished.

“I think tonight shows that he has a base here,” she added.

A turn toward the general election

The focus of Biden’s speech on Sunday night at the Pearson Community Center, which lies in the heart of North Las Vegas in a neighborhood home to primarily Black and Hispanic residents, reflected his campaign's ramp up for the general election in a key battleground state.

He described the current political situation as a “battle for the soul of our nation,” referring to Trump’s opposition to abortion and attacks on Democrat-backed election policies, as he appears set to contend with the former president in the general election.

The lack of a competitive primary — and the transition away from the intensive caucus model of years past — has allowed Biden’s campaign to focus on building out a volunteer operation and testing his messaging earlier in the year, his campaign staff recently told The Nevada Independent.

Last weekend, Vice President Kamala Harris also made a campaign stop in Nevada, forcefully criticizing Trump while at a branch of the International Brotherhood of Electoral Workers in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in East Las Vegas.

On the same day, Trump was less than 2 miles away in East Las Vegas, attacking Biden on immigration while seeking to appeal to Latino voters, who make up nearly one-fifth of the electorate in Nevada.

Trump is expected to lock up Nevada’s presidential delegates two days after the primary, during the Nevada Republican Party-run caucus Feb. 8.

Biden on Sunday made overtures toward voters of color, highlighting the benefits of the child tax credit for Black, Hispanic and Indigenous families.

Biden also spent much of the speech touting accomplishments from his first three years in office, including promoting a $3 billion federal investment for a high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California.

On multiple occasions, he reminded the crowd of the stakes of other races on the ballot this November, including Sen. Jacky Rosen’s (D-NV) re-election bid, a race likely to play a major part in determining the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

Biden also said he would approve national protections for abortion access to replace the now-repealed Roe v. Wade, if Democrats control Congress, and he blamed the former president for overturning the long-standing court precedent protecting abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Those same protections still exist in Nevada law and can only be changed by a vote of the people.

Biden also repeatedly tied Trump to his “MAGA friends,” a reference to the current Trump-influenced plank of the Republican Party, and raised the alarm they would overturn the Affordable Care Act and pass a “multibillion-dollar tax cut [for] the super wealthy,” though Trump has not publicly promised such a plan.

The president skirted any talking points on immigration — the main focus of Trump’s speech in Las Vegas a week ago — amid a congressional fight over a raft of policies backed by Republican senators but opposed by Trump and GOP leadership in the House. He also largely avoided mention of U.S. foreign policy, especially as it related to the war in Gaza or continuing U.S. strikes against the Houthis in Yemen.


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