In Reno, Trump looks to stake claim on Nevada GOP ahead of February caucus
Former President Donald Trump looked to cement his base during a Reno rally on Sunday, repeating much of his regular stump speech for a Northern Nevada audience in his second major Silver State rally ahead of the Feb. 8 Republican caucus.
That caucus has for months created confusion among the Nevada Republican rank and file, as party leaders have sought to differentiate the party-run process from the state-run primary election set for Feb. 6.
But in the waning weeks and months before the first presidential contests in 2024, Trump has emerged as the only Republican to repeatedly campaign in the Silver State. That comes in no small part because of an intraparty rift over the caucus rules, which some of Trump’s opponents — especially a super PAC linked to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — have criticized as designed to help the former president.
Speaking to a crowd of roughly 1,000 at the Reno Convention Center — taking the stage after a near-90 minute delay — Trump’s speech largely echoed remarks he gave in New Hampshire on Saturday, in which he railed against President Joe Biden’s policies on the economy, the environment, immigration and health care.
Sunday’s rally marks the first Trump visit to Nevada since six Republicans were indicted by a Clark County grand jury earlier this month over a 2020 scheme from his campaign to submit “alternative” slates of electors in key swing states.
Among those fake electors is Nevada Republican Party Chair Michael McDonald, who introduced Trump and whose party apparatus has come under criticism from other GOP campaigns over caucus rules they argue were designed to favor Trump.
In bringing Trump to the stage, McDonald told the crowd openly: “You come out to your location, you walk in with your neighbors, you sit with your neighbors and tell them how great it is. And then you cast your ballot for Donald Trump.”
“They're willing to violate the U.S. Constitution at levels never seen before,” Trump said, referencing Nevada’s fake elector charges. “In order to win, they’re dirty players, they played dirty. They weaponize justice … Look at what they're doing right here to Michael [McDonald].”
Attendees traveled from across state lines to the communities on the outskirts of town to rally for the former president and Republican candidate.
Betty Moyer, 65, woke up at 4 a.m. to drive from Spanish Springs — about a half hour drive from the convention center — to wait in line for the 2 p.m. event. She said she has been a Trump supporter since 2016 especially because of his support for veterans.
Moyer added that she had been supporting Ted Cruz and was on the fence about voting at all, until she prayed about the decision. She said a total peace came over her body and she had made her decision.
“I went down there and I voted for Trump,” she said. “And I don't regret one minute of it. I will vote for him. I will crawl over glass for him.”
That fervor was on full display in Reno — even four hours before the entry to his rally opened.
Among those who were in the VIP line was Sharon Anderson, 63, from Virginia City. She said she and her husband have been Trump supporters since he announced his candidacy for president in 2015.
"There's not much I don't like about him," Anderson said. "He's hard working. I believe he's honest, he's a businessman. He just has incredible energy." When asked about the criminal charges Trump is facing, Anderson said: "I think it's a mess. I don't think it's fair."
During his speech, Trump again pledged to reenact a travel ban from “terror-plagued countries" and repeated a promise to implement “ideological screening” for incoming immigrants. Trump also read “The Snake,” an anti-immigration poem he has referenced on the campaign trail for years, and touted himself as the only candidate who could prevent a nuclear world war, referencing his negotiations with foreign leaders, without specifying how such a war would begin or how he would prevent it.
Trump also repeated promises to launch federal investigations of “radical, out-of-control prosecutors” and to “indemnify” police officers who were being constrained and “destroyed by the radical left for taking strong action on crime.” Trump did not specify what those actions were.
Trump will be among five names to appear on the caucus ballot, alongside DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (who ended his campaign this month) and long-shot candidate and businessman Ryan Binkley.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is the only major GOP candidate on Nevada’s Republican primary ballot with an active campaign, following the exits of former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) (both will remain on the primary ballot, however, after missing the deadline to withdraw in October).
Benjamin Eden, 18, of Spanish Springs, said he is excited to cast a ballot for Trump in the first election he's allowed to vote in.
Eden, who arrived at 7:30 a.m., said Trump’s efforts to improve the job market and increase border security while he was president were among the reasons he supports the former president.
“I haven't seen him in person yet … just great to come out and see what it's all about,” he said.
Eden also noted he agreed with Trump “putting in all the judges to overturn abortion.”
Polling averages show the GOP front-runner is substantially more popular than his rivals among the Republican primary electorate despite facing 91 felony counts in three criminal cases, including two stemming from Trump’s effort to interfere with the results of the 2020 election (charges Trump called “bullsh*t” during his Reno speech Sunday).
A poll released Saturday from Morning Consult found that was especially true in Nevada, where 67 percent of Republican voters said they favored Trump over his rivals. The same poll found 50 percent of Iowa Republicans said they would vote for Trump in 2024.