An earlier version of this article was published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here. To submit a question to next week’s Friday Mailbag, email onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

Hello, friends. It seems a lot of people are worked up about King Charles III’s new portrait. It could be so much worse.

3 things to know

  1. Donald Trump and Joe Biden agreed to debate twice this year, in June and September. The move was as controversial as it was surprising, since they’re spurning the Commission on Presidential Debates, the independent group that’s organized the events since the 1980s. That leaves two particularly unhappy campers: the University of Utah, which was scheduled to host a debate on Oct. 9; and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who claims Trump and Biden are “trying to exclude me” because “they are afraid I would win.” Read more here.
  2. Trump is on trial, and so are his potential vice president picks. Trump is parading a number of VP hopefuls to the courtroom with him, from Vivek Ramaswamy and Doug Burgum to JD Vance and Byron Donalds. It seems to be Trump’s way of testing their loyalty — and as Trump remains under gag order, the surrogates act as Trump’s spokespeople to the gaggles of reporters outside. Not everyone is a fan of the spectacle: “It’s a little embarrassing,” quipped Sen. Mitt Romney. Read more here.
  3. Small-government conservatives? Not so fast. My colleague Brigham Tomco dives into new survey data with an interesting finding: more and more Republicans want to expand government entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, not decrease them. Read more here.
Related
Trump, Biden to debate in June

The Big Idea

Nevada’s top pollster: ‘Trump has the advantage’

You’ve probably heard about the latest New York Times/Siena College poll. It shows a deeply dissatisfied electorate, with a majority of voters saying the country’s political and economic systems need major changes. Most voters want Donald Trump to lead out those changes: the former president leads in five of the six swing states.

The widest margin is in Nevada, a state which President Joe Biden won in 2020. There, 50% of voters say they’d vote for Trump in a head-to-head matchup with Biden. Only 38% say Biden.

I called Mike Noble, head of Noble Predictive Insights (formerly OH Predictive Insights), to talk through the Times’ findings. Noble’s firm was ranked the most accurate firm in the Southwest during the 2022 midterms.

Our conversation below is edited for length and clarity.

The latest Times/Siena poll shows Trump up 12 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup with Biden in Nevada. Why?

My take is that Nevada is a state that, demographically, should be good for the GOP. There’s a large Latino population that’s shifting right. Nevada is one of the states with the lowest college attainment levels in the country, which should be good for the new, working-class GOP. With how close recent POTUS elections have been, the state is right on the verge of going red in a federal race. It just hasn’t gotten there yet.

And there’s a bigger picture. I would say here that the sunbelt swing states are better for Trump than Midwestern states. (Biden is holding up better in Wisconsin than Nevada.) So overall, it looks like Trump has the advantage.

Our latest poll has Trump +5. five. That’s exactly in the dead center of the RCP average. That being said, there’s a wide variety of opinions, everything from Trump +1 to Trump +13. Nevada is notoriously a hard state to poll. So, is it anyone’s ballgame still? Yes. But is it advantage Trump? Yes.

Tell me more about what makes Nevada so hard to poll.

It’s a transient state. You have two groups of folks in Nevada. You have the folks that have been there for some time — the Nevada natives, or folks that have really set up shop there. You also have a lot of folks that are moving in temporarily for jobs. It’s the entertainment capital of the world. So people are only there for two, three years, or they’re there for a pretty long time. So it is more transient compared to a lot of other states.

In the NYT/Siena poll, Nevada voters said the economy is the top issue for them, and they rate the current economy very poorly. What role does that play in how they vote?

That’s a good point. Arizona and Nevada, both swing states, are very similar in a lot of ways. But in Arizona, the top issue is immigration. In Nevada, not so much. What’s really unique about Nevada is that financial issues — inflation, jobs, things like that — are hands down their biggest issue.

If you look at pain points for the party in power right now, for Biden, it’s cost of living expenses and inflation. For Nevadans, it’s the key, driving issue there. And based on the demographics of the state, it makes sense why it’s moving a bit to the right.

What role will the Latino vote play in November? Why are Hispanic/Latino voters moving to the right?

They’re super economic-driven. Think about it. There are two big factors that decide Latinos’ ideological position on issues. One is inculturation. What generation are they? First generation, second, third — as they get more inculturated, the more they get engaged. The second thing is country of origin. The perfect example is Florida. There, Cuban immigrants are largely conservative. But if they’re from Puerto Rico, they’re super liberal.

Here in the Southwest, in Nevada and Arizona, they are more from Mexico, and Central and South America. They typically lean a little bit to the left, but they’re an incredibly disaffected group, especially on the economy. And since many of them have been here for several generations, they’re much more likely to be engaged and express that frustration at the ballot box.

Last question — can Biden win reelection without winning Nevada?

It’s possible, but it’s difficult. If he loses Nevada, it’s a good chance he loses Arizona, too. That makes it pretty tough on the calculus right now. If Trump wins both, Biden would probably have to win the four other swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin — to get to 270.

Biden carried Nevada, albeit slightly, in 2020. They feel good. But these demographic shifts and these outside conditions, such as inflation and cost of money, are pain points for people, especially in the Southwest region.

Weekend reads

What happens if Trump and Biden tie? It’s been 200 years since that last happened, when the 1824 election between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams delved into political chaos. The silver lining? We owe much of our modern political system to the reforms enacted after that election. Maybe a chaotic November could offer a helpful refresh, as argued here: A Trump-Biden Tie Would Be a Political Nightmare — But Maybe a Boon to Democracy (Joshua Zeitz, Politico Magazine)

The Nevada Senate race is one of several that could decide which party controls Congress. On the Republican side, Army veteran Sam Brown is widely viewed as the favorite, and polling shows he’s the most competitive opponent to Democrat Sen. Jacky Rosen in November. Both Brown and Jeffrey Gunter, Trump’s former ambassador to Iceland, are courting the former president’s endorsement. But when Trump comes to town for a big-money fundraiser in June, it will be Gunter, not Brown, who lands an invite. Nevada Donors Hoping to Raise $15 Million for Trump Ahead of Vegas Fundraiser in June (Audrey Fahlberg, National Review)

Trump’s allies want everyone to remember that the Manhattan trial is fundamentally about business records, not an affair or hush money or any of the other salacious details. Then why are Trump and his lawyers spending so much energy challenging Stormy Daniels’ account of their alleged dalliance? That may hurt Trump any more than any argument his lawyers make about the records, George Conway III writes. (Conway, it should be noted, is an attorney, a longtime Trump critic, and ex-husband of Trump adviser Kellyane Conway.) The New York Trump Case Is Kind of Perfect (The Atlantic)

Friday mailbag

Today’s question comes from reader Rich N.:

Trump keeps talking about his First Amendment rights being compromised by his gag order. But what about the rights of the people he disparages? Doesn’t Judge Merchan have the right to protect his integrity and the reputation of his court? Doesn’t the judge’s family have the right to not be threatened by MAGA supporters as Trump’s complaints escalate? Don’t the members of the jury deserve to not have their motives besmirched? The principle here seems to be: Trump’s right to swing his fist stops at the point of someone else’s nose.

A good question. First Amendment protections certainly extend to the subject of speech, not just the speaker. Judge Juan Merchan and his family have the right to be protected from harassment, defamation and threats. The jury, too. The question is whether Trump has truly violated the First Amendment with his comments. In a court of law, could it be determined that Trump has defamed or unduly harassed Merchan?

The gag order is a different, albeit related, matter. It isn’t in place to protect witnesses from Trump’s speech; it is to protect witnesses’ testimonies from Trump’s speech. When a five-judge panel determined Thursday that the gag order should be upheld, it was because Trump’s comments “posed a significant threat to the integrity of the testimony of witnesses and potential witnesses in this case as well.”

But the question here is getting at something else, no? Even if the First Amendment allows Trump to rail the judge, the judge’s family, the jurors, the people in the courtroom, the people outside the courtroom, or anyone else, should he? And perhaps, more importantly, should Americans want the man who does this as their president? That’s up to voters to decide.

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.