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Biden sets his sights on Nevada’s primary

LAS VEGAS — President Joe Biden voted Sunday in Nevada, where the first Western primary continues with early and absentee voting. But the Democrat and his team are also using the visit to boost support for the November general election.

The president last visited Nevada in December, highlighting the allocation of more than $8 billion in federal money for passenger rail projects across the country. On Sunday, Biden planned to meet with voters in the city’s majority-Black Historic West Side and talk to community leaders about infrastructure spending.

Michael Tyler, a spokesman for Biden’s reelection campaign, said the president will urge supporters to vote in Tuesday’s primary, adding momentum to the decline in what is shaping up to be a rematch of the 2020 contest against Republican Donald Trump.

In Tuesday’s primary, Biden faced only token opposition from author Marianne Williamson and several relatively unknown rivals. He won Nevada by less than 3 percentage points in November 2020.

Known largely for its casino and hospitality industries, the state is synonymous with split tickets and hard-to-predict outcomes. It has a transient working-class population and large Latino, Filipino, Chinese American and Black communities. There is a sharp rural-urban divide in Nevada, with more than 88% of active registered voters and the bulk of its political power located in the two most populous counties, including the Las Vegas and Reno metro areas.

In 2022, Democrats successfully defended their Senate seats and lost the governor’s office. The six statewide elected constitutional officers are evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s narrow victory helped the Democratic party maintain control of the Senate for the remainder of Biden’s term.

The vast Democratic operation built by the late Sen. Harry Reid is working in Biden’s favor this year. The “Reid Machine” has trained operators and hired organizers for years, and that’s partly why Democrats have won every presidential election there since 2008, despite Nevada’s status as a purple state.

But early signs suggest Biden needs to go further than in past races. Voters are largely unhappy with the potential Biden-Trump rematch. A November New York Times/Siena poll shows Biden’s approval rating at 36% in Nevada.

“I know from my reelection that the issues that matter to Nevadans are still kitchen table issues,” Cortez Masto said in an interview.

Biden built his reelection campaign around the theme that Trump poses a major threat to US democracy and its founding values. The president has also championed abortion rights and recently held his first major campaign rally in Virginia; There, the issue galvanized Democrats who won control of the state’s House of Representatives.

Biden also supports his handling of the economy, arguing that his policies have created millions of jobs, combated climate change and increased America’s competitiveness abroad. But polls show that many voters distrust his administration.

The Democratic National Committee recently announced a six-figure ad buy in Nevada and South Carolina, where Biden won the primaries on Saturday. The ads are intended to increase excitement among Black, Asian American and Latino voters statewide; including radio, television, digital ads in Spanish, Chinese and Tagalog, and a billboard in Las Vegas’ Chinatown.

When early voting began in Nevada a week ago, Trump claimed at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, without evidence, that he was the victim of the Biden administration’s law enforcement weaponization against him. Trump has been impeached four times and faces 91 felonies.

Dan Lee, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said of Biden that “the map says he should hold on to Nevada.”

The Republican primary also takes place on Tuesday, but the state GOP is holding caucuses on Thursday to allocate delegates. Trump is running in caucuses; His opponent, Nikki Halley, opted to remain in the non-binding primary vote.

Nevada Rep. Susie Lee and Clark County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tick Segerblom welcomed Biden at Harry Reid International Airport. The president will appear in Las Vegas until Monday, after spending part of the weekend in California.

Gabe Stern reported from Reno, Nevada. Associated Press writer Will Weissert in Washington contributed to this report.

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