Donald Trump and his GOP allies traveled to Nevada on Saturday to rally support for Republican candidates in the state's highly competitive U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races.
Trump's full-MAGA rally featured the grandest display of delusional sedition-loving backwater racism the state has seen, certainly this cycle and perhaps ever.
Trump declared the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6 absolutely glorious. "You know the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen?" Trump posited. "Jan. 6. And you never hear that."
Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama traded in his racist dog whistle for a bullhorn, asserting that Black Americans are “the people that do the crime.”
Republican Nevada secretary of state nominee Jim Marchant, a vehement election-denier, promised Republicans would take control of the country not by winning the vote, but by winning the races of those who will count the votes.
"If we get all our Secretaries of State elected around the country like this, we take our country back," pledged Marchant. Polling has shown Marchant leading his Democratic challenger Cisco Aguilar, sometimes by more than a handful of points.
But given Trump's track record of rallying support for general election candidates when he's not on the ticket, it's an open question as to whether his presence in the state will help GOP senatorial nominee Adam Laxalt and gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo—or not.
"Real ? is if [Trump’s] visit makes any difference in ginning up rural turnout for the GOP or urban turnout for the Dems," tweeted veteran journalist and CEO of The Nevada Independent Jon Ralston. "Only poll that counts," he added.
In fact, Trump's rallies for Republicans in recent Senate and gubernatorial contests have done little to help GOP candidates and may have actually hurt them, as Ralston suggests, by boosting the anti-Trump vote in urban and suburban areas.
In 2019, Trump held pre-vote rallies ahead of both off-year gubernatorial contests in Kentucky and Louisiana and literally begged his base to turn out for him.
“They are going to say 'Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world,'” he said. “You can’t let that happen to me!”
In both cases, Trump suffered stinging defeats. Then again in 2020, Trump threw his weight behind Georgia Senate GOP incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler as they were forced into runoffs in early Jan. 2021. Once again, both candidates lost.
The takeaway from those four contests was the fact that regardless of what Trump said, his most loyal voters simply did not turn out when he wasn’t on the ticket. Once more, his presence in a state actually energized urban and suburban voters who despise Trump.
As ABC News reported on election night in 2019:
On Tuesday, Democratic statewide and local candidates from Virginia through Kentucky, Iowa and Pennsylvania saw their vote margins boosted by suburban voters -- and women in particular -- overcoming the allure of Trumpism in a range of races.
The results cost Republicans full control of the state government in Richmond for the first time in a quarter century. They also left the GOP governor of Kentucky trailing a Democrat by some 5,000 votes -- in a state Trump carried by 30 points in 2016.
Of course, the dynamics of those off-year elections also vary wildly from this year's midterms. With Democrats controlling Washington and the White House, history suggests the GOP base and Trump voters are plenty likely to be motivated to register their discontent at the polls.
In 2021, Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin's elevation to the state's governor's mansion certainly had whiffs of a protest vote against the party in power at both the state and federal levels. Youngkin, however, very explicitly kept Trump at arm's length, refusing to hold any public events with him.
But this year, the post-Dobbs special elections tell a different story, with Democrats overperforming then-candidate Joe Biden's 2020 numbers in all four contests by an average of 4 points—a 10-point shift from what Democrats had averaged prior to the Supreme Court decision gutting Roe v. Wade.
One place Trump's visit to Nevada has already helped Sen. Cortez Masto is in fundraising. Since his Saturday rally, Cortez Masto's campaign reported having its two best fundraising days of the cycle, amassing more than $1 million in online donations, according to CNN's Manu Raju.
The Democratic incumbent senator is going to need it. The race is going down to the wire, with FiveThirtyEight's polling aggregate giving Laxalt a 1.4-point edge over Cortez Masto.
But Nevada is also notoriously difficult to poll, partially due to the concentration of Latino voters who are just as notoriously difficult to poll. In fact, during the 2010 midterms, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was famously left for dead by pollsters, who anticipated little to no Latino participation would lead to a drubbing by GOP insurgent candidate Sharron Angle. Instead, Latino voters turned out at a record rate of 16% (despite accounting for just 12% of the state's registered voters at the time), propelling Reid to a 6-point victory.
The Cortez Masto campaign is clearly convinced Trump's presence was worth advertising, with the senator dedicating nine tweets between Saturday and Monday to highlighting the Trump-Laxalt alliance.
"Last night, @AdamLaxalt stood by as Donald Trump bragged about the insurrection on January 6th that led to the deaths of 5 law enforcement officers,” Cortez Masto tweeted from her campaign account Sunday. “Laxalt will do anything for power. He's only out for himself, not Nevada.”
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Yes, the polls still matter! On The Downballot, The Economist's G. Elliott Morris joins us to discuss his new book on polling, Strength in Numbers, including the early history of polling in the form of 19th-century straw polls; how we can be smart consumers of polls by placing their uncertainty in context; and the surprises that have stood out in his new model forecasting the 2022 midterms.