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How Trump is resonating with Nevada voters ahead of caucuses — and November election

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump will be returning to Nevada for tomorrow's caucuses, and he's virtually guaranteed to sweep its 26 delegates. On the stump, he's looking ahead to November and testing out some general election material for a crucial audience in one of the most pivotal states in this year's race.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: We want to get a great, beautiful mandate. And this November, we're going to win the swing state of Nevada. You ever think of it as a swing state?

(CHEERING)

PFEIFFER: Is Trump's pitch resonating for Nevadans? NPR's Franco Ordoñez spoke to voters there to find out.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAIN FALLING)

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: On a rainy day in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Danielle Harper was lifting groceries from a cart into her car. The 39-year-old mom holds one person largely responsible - President Biden. While she's paying little attention to this week's primaries, she's very focused on November.

DANIELLE HARPER: Yeah, I'm coming out of the grocery store pissed about what I just spent. I promise you, I'm not happy about that grocery bill. Twenty-two dollars for a pack of chicken is out of line. This is America. This is crazy.

ORDOÑEZ: But Harper isn't sure she can vote for Trump either. She knows her concerns about the economy and the direction of the country, though, make her a prime target for the Trump campaign.

HARPER: I know I'm absolutely exactly who they want. Middle-class white lady - that's - yeah, that's - I'm the Republicans' target. They'll say anything that they can to get me to vote for them.

ORDOÑEZ: Parked one row over at the grocery store, Denise Caballero would prefer not to vote for Trump either, but she's resigned to do so if it's between the former and current president.

DENISE CABALLERO: People would say, oh, you're voting for the evil of the lesser two. But no, I'm voting for what I want for my kids, for the future.

ORDOÑEZ: While the U.S. economy has bounced back in many ways, Nevada has had a slower recovery. Because of the state's reliance on the hospitality and tourism industries, Nevada was exceptionally hard-hit during COVID. Its unemployment rate is nearly two points higher than the rest of the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Thank you.

(CHEERING)

ORDOÑEZ: Trump stoked those concerns at a recent rally in East Las Vegas...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump...

ORDOÑEZ: ...Blasting Biden about the economy and the chaos on the southern border.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: But let there be no doubt - what Joe Biden is doing is a crime against our nation. It's an absolute betrayal of our country, and it's an atrocity against our constitution. Nobody's ever seen anything like it.

ORDOÑEZ: This week, he's been continuing that message with local radio and newspaper interviews. President Biden didn't pull any punches either when he visited Nevada ahead of the Democratic primaries despite his assured victory.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Donald, I got bad news for you, pal. It's too late.

ORDOÑEZ: He hyped progress on the economy and warned of a nightmare should Trump return to office.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: You're one of only two presidents in American history - you and Herbert Hoover - who left office with fewer jobs than when you took office.

ORDOÑEZ: The dueling visits are another sign of the state's importance, but both candidates will have to overcome a lack of enthusiasm around the likely rematch.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR PASSING)

ORDOÑEZ: Back in Henderson, Becca Meyer says she's not a huge fan of Biden, but she sees him as the better alternative to Trump.

BECCA MEYER: Clearly, Trump is not the answer. We've been there. That feels so monstrous for how we treat humanity. Like, that's not even an option. But we're going to continue with complacency, which is what I feel like we're doing.

ORDOÑEZ: And she feels guilty about how disengaged she is and worries others will be, too, if they aren't already.

MEYER: This is the best we can come up with? Really? Like, really?

ORDOÑEZ: Franco Ordoñez, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.