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Nevada could decide the presidential election. Trump hopes to woo its divided voters

In this combination of photos, President Joe Biden speaks on Aug. 10, 2023, in Salt Lake City, and former President Donald Trump speaks on July 8, 2023, in Las Vegas.
Alex Brandon, left, and John Locher, right
In this combination of photos, President Joe Biden speaks on Aug. 10, 2023, in Salt Lake City, and former President Donald Trump speaks on July 8, 2023, in Las Vegas.

A political debate is breaking out at a farmers market in Henderson, Nev., about 10 miles southeast of the lights of the Las Vegas strip.

Orlando Nurillo, a 33-year-old bread stand vendor, says he’s done with President Biden, which draws other neighboring vendors over to join in — many agreeing.

“I will probably have to move out of the country. I would not want that guy running anything else,” Nurillo says.

Nurillo and the others disgusted by Biden are exactly the type of voters former President Donald Trump hopes to reach with his visit to a Las Vegas park on Sunday. The rally is part of a western swing that includes a Phoenix town hall and several fundraising stops. Las Vegas will mark Trump’s first rally since his historic felony conviction.

Biden won Nevada in 2020 in a nail-biter, and the state is expected to once again be a critical battleground in this year’s election. Republicans see plenty of opportunities among different groups here.

Voters — both Democrats and Republicans — are digging in, and anger is palpable. Both sides are angry about housing, the economy and immigration. But they have very different ideas about who is to blame.

For Trump supporters like Shiani Santana, it’s entirely Biden’s fault.

“I'm 23 years old, and I don't think I could afford to move out on my own anytime soon into my own apartment, let alone my own house,” she told NPR.

Santana launched a skincare business just before the pandemic. However, she didn’t qualify for a business relief loan and says like many in her generation, homeownership is a pipe dream.

She’s also frustrated that her family’s community in her home state of Hawaii has not seen more federal assistance after devastating fires in Maui last year. She says she compares that to foreign countries like Israel that have seen billions of dollars in U.S. aid.

“A lot of our family members lost their homes and were never let back in, and a lot of family members were displaced,” she said.

So, even if she may not love everything about Trump, she says she thinks she’ll vote for him again.

“Just because our economy and the future of our economy, not because of what he says or the things he says,” she said.

Among the produce and homemade goods, conspiracy theories were also on the table from many voters, including Santana. It’s fueled by their anger and confusion about decisions made by the country’s leaders.

“I feel like COVID was a coverup for all of that, they were like, ‘Oh what can we do to manipulate the people and to bring change upon them, oh make them all stay at home,’” she said.

A few feet away, customer Shack Kaspershackelford was puzzled by Trump voters. She says she’d never vote for him.

“No, no, absolutely not. Zero out of 10,” she said.

Kaspershackelford, a technician at Allegiant Stadium, is also 23 years old and shares Santana’s housing frustration. She is also living with her parents.

But she says she’s still leaning toward Biden even as many of her relatives back Trump.

“I have a lot of family members who do like him,” she said.

Kaspershackelford said she voted for Biden in the last election and generally wants more left-leaning candidates. She says she’s most concerned about the U.S. getting pulled into a new, international war.

She’s also worried about the economy, social issues and immigration.

She admits she’s not thrilled about Biden and wants to see more from him.

“I think he's definitely done some decent work over the last four years,” she said. “I just feel like it's maybe not enough. I haven't heard too much about stuff he's really gotten done or his policies, and I would prefer somebody a bit more left, but also, like, if that's what we've got, that's what we have, you know?”

Housing concerns driving anger

About 30 miles away at an early voting site in northwest Las Vegas, Keri Cervantez was trying to get the word out on her favorite local candidates.

Cervantez is a fifth-generation Las Vegas native who says three of her four adult sons have moved back into her home because they couldn’t find anything affordable. The retiree says it’s the sign of a weak economy — and blames Biden.

“I mean, I see more and more my neighbors have their kids living with them,” Cervantez said from the Thunderbird Family Sports Complex. “And because they can't afford it, you know, they'll never be able, at this rate, afford a home.”

Her son Sean, who has worked as a physical therapist, agrees.

“That's what keeps me up at night is not being able to to know that I don't have a way to protect my family, how to take care of my family. And it's rough, you know, and I think that's one of the biggest things that my generation is looking at.”

Sean Cervantez and his mom both voted for Trump in the last election.

Conspiracy theories resurface when he begins talking about the voting machines in 2020 and how the technology can’t be trusted.

Sean says he’s so disenchanted with the whole process, he may not vote at all this year.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.