LAS VEGAS — The start of early voting in Nevada always brings out the stars, and 2018 was no exception.
President Donald Trump concluded a western swing Saturday morning with a rally in the remote city of Elko just after former Vice President Joe Biden fired up Democrats here in Las Vegas in the crucial Senate race.
Trump and vulnerable GOP Sen. Dean Heller urged the GOP faithful in rural Nevada to get out and vote early.
“You know, a big portion of your state does do early voting, which is surprising. Very unusual,” the president said. “But you’re a very unusual state.”
Nevada is not the only state where significant numbers of voters cast their ballots ahead of Election Day.
Heller argued that high turnout among early voters outside Clark County — which accounts for almost three-quarters of the state’s population and includes Las Vegas — could send a message to the Democrats and the campaign of his challenger, Rep. Jacky Rosen.
Heller and state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the GOP nominee for governor, were invited to join Trump onstage separately, and the two men had nothing but praise for the president.
“Mr. President, you know a little something about gold. In fact, I think everything you touch turns to gold,” said Heller, noting the gold mining production in nearby Eureka County.
Meanwhile, more than 300 miles to the south in Las Vegas, Biden said Democratic control of Congress wasn’t just about moving forward on the party’s priorities.
“My name is Joe Biden and I work for Harry Reid,” the former vice president said, opening his remarks by invoking the name of the former Senate majority leader and de facto party boss of Nevada Democrats.
Lamenting that Republicans were, in his view, “putting their party over their country,” the potential 2020 presidential contender said a Congress run by Democrats could change that.
“When we win back the House and the Senate … you’re going to see somewhere between 15 and 20 Republicans in the House starting to vote their conscience when they know it can matter,” Biden told supporters gathered here outside the Culinary Workers Union on the first day of early voting. “And you’re going to see between three and six Republicans in the Senate begin to vote the right way.”
“They don’t want to be the only guy out there on that deciding vote. And if they know the consensus of the body is to do the right thing, they will join,” the former vice president said.
Trump joked about the differing crowd sizes between the Nevada State Democratic Party event with Biden and his Elko rally, but in some respects the two men had different intentions. Biden was in town to fire up members of the powerful Culinary union, which has proved to be the engine of the Democratic ground game.
In contrast to the diverse group of workers behind the Las Vegas tourism business, when Trump asked his Elko rally crowd about Hispanic turnout there, the response was less than tepid.
“Eh, not the most, not the most. I’d give it 5 percent,” he said. “That’s OK.”
Back in Las Vegas, Biden predictably voiced support for Rosen, who faced off against Heller in their first and only debate of the campaign the previous night. Polls have shown a tight race.
The Silver State is the Democrats’ best pickup opportunity in the Senate this cycle, with Heller the only Republican facing a competitive race in a state Trump lost in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the contest a Toss-up.
Biden said the lack of consensus in Congress had caused power to flow to the presidency.
“The House and Senate become irrelevant, which they basically have,” he said. “And that’s when you see this incredible abuse of power.”
Biden, who also represented Delaware in the Senate for 36 years, issued a sharp rebuke of Trump, accusing him of sullying the country’s reputation around the world. He blasted Trump’s foreign policy and accused him of purposely dividing the country.
And he told supporters this was the most consequential election in recent memory.
“We’re in a battle for the soul of America, folks,” the former vice president said as the morning sun beat down on the crowd.
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