POLITICS & ELECTIONS

Trump takes stage in Las Vegas for first campaign rally since felony conviction

Jun 9, 2024, 3:03 PM

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a town hall in Phoenix on June 6. Donald Trump’s politica...

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a town hall in Phoenix on June 6. Donald Trump’s political swing through the West continues June 9 with his first campaign rally since his historic conviction at his New York hush money trial last month. (Rick Scuteri, AP via CNN Newsource)

(Rick Scuteri, AP via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — Donald Trump’s political swing through the West continues Sunday with his first campaign rally since his historic conviction at his New York hush money trial last month.

The event in Las Vegas follows a flurry of stops for the former president that included high-dollar fundraisers in California and a campaign town hall in Arizona. On Saturday night, he attended a fundraiser in Las Vegas hosted by construction equipment tycoon Don Ahern, a longtime ally.

Trump’s excursion out West comes at a critical juncture for his campaign. The former president is looking to shift the narrative to his general election message after a seven-week-long criminal trial that culminated in his conviction on 34 felony counts related to a hush money scheme to pay off a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.

During his visit to Las Vegas, the Trump campaign is expected to launch a new “Latino Americans for Trump” coalition, as it looks to increase its outreach to Hispanic voters ahead of November’s election. The decision to launch the new program in Nevada is no coincidence.

Recent polling has indicated a noticeable shift toward Trump among Hispanic voters, who have traditionally voted Democratic. In a state like Nevada, where Latino voters make up a sizable portion of the electorate, siphoning away some of them could help deliver Trump the critical battleground state, and potentially the White House. Nevada has backed the Democratic nominee for president in four consecutive elections – but Joe Biden carried it by just 2 points in 2020.

“Some of us believe that we might be better positioned in Nevada [this cycle] than we are even in Georgia,” one source close to Trump told CNN.

Trump campaign sources pointed specifically to the Covid-19 pandemic as a reason for their optimism. Nevada was particularly hard hit by the pandemic, given its dependence on tourism and hospitality.

One senior adviser said there are also plans to try and work with the state’s powerful Culinary Workers Union, which has traditionally worked closely with Democrats as part of a massive get-out-the-vote operation crafted by late Nevada Sen. Harry Reid. Last month, the union unendorsed several Democratic state lawmakers over their votes to remove Covid-era cleaning requirements placed on the casino industry.

A critical moment

Immigration, crime and the economy are expected to be a central part of Trump’s speech in Las Vegas, senior Trump advisers told CNN.

“Las Vegas has been hit really hard on a lot of different fronts, especially when it comes to housing costs and home ownership and rising food costs in that region. It’s a really big issue over there,” one of the advisers said.

However, whether Trump can stay on message remains uncertain.

Within moments of taking the stage Thursday at his Phoenix town hall hosted by the conservative group Turning Point Action, Trump railed against his conviction, calling the verdict “rigged” and demanding the courts overturn it.

“Those appellate courts have to step up and straighten things out or we’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump told the crowd.

In a series of interviews over the past week, Trump refused to back away from his threats to seek retaliation against his political opponents if he wins the presidency.

“Well, revenge does take time. I will say that,” Trump said in an interview with psychologist Phil McGraw, better known as Dr. Phil. “And sometimes revenge can be justified. Phil, I have to be honest. You know, sometimes it can.”

However, Trump stayed somewhat on message during his remarks at the Phoenix town hall, speaking at length about immigration — an issue Trump’s team views as a core vulnerability for Biden ahead of November.

In a potential attempt to address that vulnerability, Biden announced an executive action last week giving him the authority to effectively shut down the US-Mexico border to asylum seekers entering illegally when a daily threshold of crossings is exceeded. Trump bashed Biden repeatedly over the move during his Phoenix speech, calling it “bullsh*t” and vowing to revoke the new asylum restrictions if reelected.

The Senate factor

In addition to a marquee presidential race, Nevada is also playing host this year to what is expected to be one of the country’s most competitive Senate contests as Democratic incumbent Jacky Rosen seeks a second term. Trump has yet to officially endorse in the state’s increasingly ugly GOP Senate primary, and sources said it seems increasingly unlikely he will do so before the intraparty election Tuesday.

Trump has faced pressure to back Sam Brown, a retired Army captain who was severely burned by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. In April, Trump posted on social media that Brown and the former president were the “Clear Choices of Nevada’s Republican Voters and Donors.” But Trump loyalists have bashed Brown for his ties to mainstream Republicans – he was personally recruited to run by Montana Sen. Steve Daines, the head of the Senate GOP campaign arm. Instead, they have encouraged the former president to back Jeff Gunter, Trump’s former ambassador to Iceland.

Gunter was scheduled to attend Saturday’s fundraiser with Trump but Brown was not. Ahern, who hosted the event at his luxury boutique hotel, backed Brown when he unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for the state’s other Senate seat in 2022. But Ahern has thrown his support behind Gunter this cycle and has encouraged Trump to do the same.

Dangerous conditions

Trump’s campaign, which has been holding outdoor rallies more frequently in recent months, is bracing for extreme heat on Sunday as temperatures are expected to reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

In preparation, the Trump campaign is doubling the amount of emergency medical staff on site for the rally, adding new misting fans and significantly increasing the amount of water available to attendees, according to a Trump campaign official.

The official said the campaign will provide more than 38,000 bottles of water, 20 Power Breezer misting fans throughout the venue in Sunset Park in Las Vegas, at least one cooling tent with air conditioning and pop-up umbrella tents throughout the space. More metal detectors will also be added to help expedite security lines.

The new precautions being taken come after 12 people were transported to the hospital from Trump’s campaign event in Phoenix due to heat-related illness, a spokeswoman for the Phoenix Fire Department told CNN.

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Trump takes stage in Las Vegas for first campaign rally since felony conviction