By Michelle L. Price
LAS VEGAS — Despite Democratic election wins across Nevada last year, Republicans are banking on President Donald Trump’s enthusiastic supporters, a united GOP organization and a soaring economy to turn the state red in 2020.
“When the nation’s economy does well, Nevada does well,” said Jeremy Hughes, a Las Vegas-based regional political director for the Republican National Committee. “This town is built on tourism, and I think you’re seeing a booming economy lift all ships here.”
Though Trump lost Nevada in 2016 to Democrat Hillary Clinton and the state has trended blue in recent cycles, it’s still considered a battleground. Trump’s reelection campaign identified the state as one of at least four states the president lost but is targeting in 2020.
During last year’s midterm elections, the president campaigned in Nevada for Republican candidates, but Democrats swept most of the statewide and national races and expanded their power in the Legislature.
The difference in 2020, Hughes said, is that Trump’s name will be on the ballot, attracting his enthusiastic “die-hard” supporters who may not have been as motivated to vote for other Republicans.
“The president brings his own set of unique supporters and enthusiasm to the table that is not really transferrable” to other candidates, Hughes said.
That, combined with a booming economy that has brought Nevada’s unemployment rate to a 13-year-low, give Republicans optimism about the race.
“We’re all excited again,” said Julie Soucy, a Las Vegas-based Trump volunteer.
Soucy was among about three dozen of the president’s supporters who gathered at the Treasure Island casino-resort Tuesday night to watch Trump officially kick off his reelection campaign from Orlando, Florida.
“We’re out there, we’re active, and we have 18 months to continue to make sure that we keep America great and flip the state red for President Trump,” Joe Weaver, Nevada director of Trump’s re-election effort, said to cheers.
The president’s reelection campaign has merged with the Republican National Committee to create one united effort, and Nevada’s GOP has been folded into that effort.
“It’s more involved. It’s more of all-hands-on-deck,” said Michael McDonald, chair of the Nevada Republican Party.
In addition to existing RNC and Nevada Republican party staff on the ground, the combined effort is hiring more people. Hughes declined to say how many workers are already hired, but said the GOP will make a concerted effort to engage with the state’s diverse ethnic groups.
“We have a Spanish-speaking person on staff. We have a Mandarin-speaking person on staff,” he said. “We’ve sought to diversify our staff here to make sure that we’re speaking to all Nevadans.”
The GOP is also working to grow its volunteer base.
Since 2015, 2,200 Nevadans have participated in the RNC’s six-week training course teaching volunteers how to become political organizers and manage other volunteers — a key force for canvassing and registering voters.
Republicans will need to marshal that force to overcome Democrats’ voter registration advantage and try to win over a significant slice of the state’s undecided voters.
As of May, Democrats comprised 38% of the state’s active registered voters, while Republicans represented 34% and nonpartisans made up 23%.