This article was first published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here.

Good morning and welcome to On the Trail 2024, the Deseret News’ campaign newsletter. I’m Samuel Benson, Deseret’s national political correspondent.

I’m writing today’s newsletter from Las Vegas, where I’ve spent the week trying to figure out why most presidential candidates have yet to visit swing-state Nevada. More on that below.

But first, the latest from the Deseret News’ 2024 election coverage:

The Big Idea

Why presidential candidates are ignoring Nevada

In the political stratosphere, there is near complete agreement that Nevada is one of a select few states that could decide the 2024 presidential election. One forecast marks it as one of four swing states. Another places it among six.

And yet, among presidential hopefuls, Nevada is almost untouched terrain. Few candidates have visited this election cycle, opting instead for frequent blitzes of other early-voting states like South Carolina, New Hampshire or Iowa. Last weekend alone, six Republican candidates visited the city of Nevada, Iowa, population 7,000; in the past year, only three have visited Nevada, the state.

“We’re the Rodney Dangerfield of early voting states,” Jon Ralston, founder of the Nevada Independent, told me. “We don’t get no respect.”

Why is this? It could be logistics — Nevada is admittedly difficult to get to, as it could take a candidate the same time to host an event in New Hampshire, board a flight and land in Iowa, as it would to fly from New Hampshire to Las Vegas. Nevada’s geography isn’t all that conducive to campaigning, either — three-fourths of the state’s population live in Clark County, home to Las Vegas, while many of the state’s political powerbrokers are seven hours north, in Reno or Carson City.

But my conversations with Nevada-based strategists, pundits and campaign surrogates this week revealed another reason why it’s gone untouched: many think the state’s GOP primary is already rigged for Trump.

The Nevada Republican Party is making an effort to get rid of the state’s presidential primary election, instead choosing a party-run caucus two days after the primary date. The party claims a caucus would save taxpayer money and boost voter turnout. Critics argue the caucus would guarantee a Trump victory and appease his allies in the state party leadership.

It’s caused a rift within the state party, and a general wind of uncertainty is swirling overhead. The state party has filed a lawsuit to cancel the primary, but is maintaining a mid-October filing deadline for candidates who wish to participate in the caucus. The Nevada Republican Central Committee is meeting next weekend in Winnemucca — a remote, mountainous town northeast of Reno — to hash out more details.

Enough on the technicalities. I’ll have more on that soon (and on Utah’s similar decision to nix its primary in favor of a caucus). Suffice it to say that non-Trump Republicans in Nevada are unhappy, and candidates are likely holding off campaigning there until they get more clarity. As one Republican strategist told me: “Why come and spend resources if, at the end of the day, someone’s gonna come in and pull the rug out from underneath you?”

Poll pulse

A new Suffolk University/USA Today poll bodes poorly for Bidenomics: Seventy percent of Americans think the economy is getting worse, not better.

From the poll:

Despite a robust job market and an inflation rate that has dropped from over 9% in June 2022 to 3.7% last month, Americans take a dim view of the economy, with large percentages using words like “horrible,” “awful,” “bad,” and “shambles” to describe it, compared to smaller percentages that use words such as “excellent,” “good,” “growing” or “improving.”

When asked if they trust Biden or Trump to improve the economy, 47% said Trump and 36% said Biden.

Ad of the week

A new series of Tim Scott ads aired across Iowa this week, part of Scott’s $8 million ad buy in Iowa and New Hampshire. The newest ad, called “Parental Consent,” vows to “put moms and dads back in charge.”

Scott has made parents’ rights a central part of his campaign. His “Empowering Parents Plan,” released last month, focuses on school choice and parental control over what children are taught in the classroom and exposed to on social media.

The GOP presidential race reaches the classroom as candidates speak out on parents’ rights, school choice

Weekend reads

If you read nothing else this weekend, check out this excerpt from McKay Coppins’ forthcoming biography on Mitt Romney: What Mitt Romney Saw in the Senate (The Atlantic).

Over the past two years, Romney gave Coppins unprecedented access to his journals and emails — all things he thought he’d be saving for his memoir, but instead turned to Coppins. “I can’t be objective about my own life,” Romney said. This excerpt — published minutes after Romney announced his decision to step down after his current Senate term ends, in January 2025 — focuses on Romney’s time in the Senate, why he’s retiring, and why he thinks “a very large portion” of the Republican Party “really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.” 

A disclaimer — I worked as McKay’s lead researcher on this project. But I say this in the most objective way I can: this book is a must-read, thanks both to McKay’s skill and Romney’s candor. I can’t wait for you to read the whole thing, starting Oct. 24.

A few other reads:

Friday mailbag

Have a question you’d like me to answer in next Friday’s newsletter? Send it along to Let’s talk policy, polling, candidates ... anything election-related.

Today’s question comes from reader Donna T.: “How is Donald Trump allowed to run for president again, with all of his legal troubles?”

This will come up over and over until Election Day or until Trump drops out (whichever comes first). Legally, four criminal indictments do not disqualify someone from office — in the history of the U.S., several presidential candidates have run for office with pending charges, ranging from frivolous or serious. Some even campaigned while serving jail time (including one 1844 independent candidate, Joseph Smith).

At this point, the best way Trump is barred from running is if enough states rule he is ineligible under the 14th Amendment. Lawsuits have already cropped up to this end in a handful of states, including Utah. But it is unlikely a judge would rule Trump guilty of insurrection against the Constitution if he is acquitted of charges in Georgia or Washington, D.C., courts — both of which deal with his actions surrounding the 2020 election.

New Utah lawsuit attempts to bar Trump from 2024 election ballot

In short, if Trump is kept from the White House, it will most likely be because voters choose to vote for someone else.

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Anything you’d like to see from our campaign coverage? Drop me a line:

See you on the trail.


Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.

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