On Sunday, Oct. 18 President Donald J. Trump returned to Nevada for the first time since his controversial September visit at the Minden Airport. It was also his first visit to Nevada since contracting COVID-19 in early October, when he was hospitalized for several days at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
As with the last Trump campaign rally in the area, there was not a lot of mask-wearing or social distancing taking place at Sunday’s affair–an ironic situation considering the president’s medical condition a few weeks ago. Similarly, this event took place at another small town airport, and attendance estimates vary wildly, from a few thousand to upwards of 13,000, as suggested by local authorities and campaign officials.
Prominent Nevada Republicans attended the rally. State Assembly member and Republican Assembly Caucus Leader Robin Titus (R-Wellington/Smith Valley) led an invocation; State Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) welcomed the president to his district; U.S. Representative Mark Amodei (R) remarked on the first presidential visit to Carson City since Teddy Roosevelt; and former Attorney General Adam Laxalt underscored the importance of voting and reiterated the campaign’s enthusiasm going into early voting and Election Day.
The parade of party representatives concluded with the ever enthusiastic, high energy, and in high spirits chairman of the Nevada State Republican party, Michael McDonald. While speaking, McDonald had the president’s plane, Air Force One, fly over and instructed the crowd to say hi to the president via his phone; they were on a live chat together.
After the early hype, rally goers waited for almost an hour on the hot and humid tarmac for Trump to arrive. Air Force One landed, after all, at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and the president was escorted by a Secret Service vehicle to Carson City.
Arriving shortly after 4 p.m., Trump spoke for about an hour and 15 minutes in a speech where he came out swinging at his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. He also made a direct appeal to his supporters to get out for early voting.
The president spoke about his coronavirus experience and took the opportunity to take a few parting shots at Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and other governors who haven’t opened up their states’ economies fast enough for Trump’s liking. Nevada, like most states, have followed White House guidance on reopening.
He urged governors and municipalities to open up their communities and loosen COVID-19 restrictions–in opposition to current coronavirus data and health officials’ recommendations in Nevada and especially Washoe County, where cases are on the rise.
Trump also made a questionable claim in his speech Sunday saying that his campaign is ahead in the polls in Nevada and other swing states. Recent, reputable national and state polls show strongly in favor of Joe Biden by 5% to 13%.
Trump also reiterated his pitch to the party faithful that he is the best choice to protect their Second Amendment rights, to promote conservative judges and to ensure a strong economic recovery. He also followed those promises up by suggesting the TV ratings for both the NFL and NBA are down as a result of the leagues supporting social justice movements.
Immediately after the rally, Trump was off to a private fundraiser at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, California. He returns to Nevada later Monday for a series of events at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas.
Positive response from rally attendees
Rep. Amodei spoke to This Is Reno after the event. He said Republicans aren’t deterred by higher early turnout numbers from Democrats, noting that Republicans often turn out in large numbers on Election Day.
Dems push back
Nevada Democrats used Trump’s rally as a chance to roll out a billboard advertising campaign in Las Vegas and Carson City. Two billboards were placed on the route from Reno to Carson City to greet travelers to Trump’s Carson City rally. A third in southern Nevada is just off Interstate 15 on the way to Trump’s hotel.
The message: “This Administration Failed Us.”
“Voters across Nevada won’t miss this message: Trump’s ineffective, incompetent coronavirus response has cost too many Nevadans their lives and their livelihoods,” Democratic National Party Chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “As Trump arrives in [Nevada], he’ll be greeted by the consequences of his failed record — hundreds of thousands of Nevadans out of jobs, working families struggling to make ends meet, and people who are frightened that Trump will rip away their health care coverage in the middle of a pandemic.
“The last thing Nevada needs right now is Trump dropping in to hold another reckless rally to distract from his broken promises. With early voting underway across Nevada, Trump’s political stunt today will remind voters exactly what they don’t like about him as they head to the polls to hold him accountable for his failures.” “
As Nov. 3 nears, the election, naturally, will continue to get heated. One can only expect more of these tit-for-tat responses between the Republicans and Democrats as the battle for public attention and voter participation continues.
Don Dike-Anukam is a Reno native attending college in northern Nevada. He has been involved in activist politics for 15 years on and off, and has been involved in multiple campaigns in multiple positions in that time. He also was a college radio political, news, and talk-show host covering a range of stories from hostage standoffs, fires, interviews, and public speeches.