Written by Katie Rogers
President Donald Trump is not exactly a fan of life on the road. He agreed to a four-day Western trip this week on the condition that he spend every night at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. And that location had another attraction: It placed him at the current center of the 2020 presidential race — Nevada, where Democrats will vote Saturday in caucuses that could reshape the campaign.
The trip was meant to showcase the president’s aggressive reelection push to drum up funds from high-dollar donors in California, a Democratic state where Trump is widely unpopular but enjoys some concentrated pockets of support. But the president believes that wherever he goes, he can force the news cycles — and political fortunes — to turn in his favor.
And the first opportunity to do that was Wednesday night, when Democrats were scheduled to hold a debate in Las Vegas.
“Should I go to that debate?” Trump asked a group of volunteers gathered at his hotel before he left for a high-dollar fundraiser in Palm Springs, California.
The president then set off on a hectic schedule that had him hopscotching around California and touching down in Phoenix for a “Keep America Great” rally before returning to Las Vegas for the night. And he will hold two other rallies before returning to Washington — on Thursday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and on Friday in Las Vegas.
Both in private and in public, it was clear that Trump did not want to cede any political spotlight to Democrats on the debate stage. “You know, we have internal polls that say we beat every candidate,” the president told the crowd at his hotel, a theme he sounded all day.
Journalists were not invited to Trump’s campaign breakfast, but a New York Times reporter was dining in the restaurant as a guest. In the hotel, the president took aim at CNN and MSNBC for reporting on the polls, but saved his special contempt for Comcast, which owns NBC Universal. Trump called the media conglomerate “corrupt” and a “disgrace to this country.”
In his remarks to supporters and later on Twitter, the president was reacting to several recently released polls, including one by NBC and The Wall Street Journal, that show him trailing several possible Democratic opponents, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
“Internal REAL polls show I am beating all of the Dem candidates,” Trump tweeted shortly before leaving for Rancho Mirage, California, near Palm Springs, for a private fundraiser. “The Fake News Polls (here we go again, just like 2016) show losing or tied.”
One Democrat, in particular, has held the president’s attention: Michael Bloomberg. For weeks, Trump has been preoccupied with Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor and late entry to the Democratic presidential race.
“Is corrupt Bloomberg News going to say what a pathetic debater Mini Mike is,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, using a nickname to insult Bloomberg, a billionaire who has recently enjoyed a surge of popularity but who is untested on the debate stage.
Trump’s setting up base in Nevada this week was not the first time he suddenly appeared in the middle of the Democratic Party’s nominating process. Last month, he held a rally in Des Moines, four days before the Iowa caucuses.
Eleven days later, the president traveled to Manchester, New Hampshire, the evening before the state held its primary election on Feb. 11, though in that case he was on the Republican ballot.
Aside from the attention-grabbing spectacle of long lines, ample media coverage and cars festooned with Trump-Pence signs driving by candidates’ events, Trump’s travels through four states on his Western swing have created a logistical nightmare for some Democratic candidates.
At least one campaign complained that Trump’s trip to Las Vegas hampered its Thursday plans, with the flight restrictions that accompany an Air Force One arrival and departure complicating its attempts for travel to more than one other state from now until Saturday.
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