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Democrats want to convince Nevada voters they should still support Biden

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In 2020, President Biden won Nevada by just under three percentage points. Democratic organizers in the state are already on the ground, arguing that the road to the White House goes through Nevada, and they are trying to promote Biden's policies as a reason why voters should support him. NPR's Ximena Bustillo has more.

XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: Nevada Democrats have one job in 2024 - motivate voters to turn back out for Joe Biden.

HILARY BARRETT: We have the receipts. We've done the work. Now it's making sure people know it.

BUSTILLO: That's Hilary Barrett, executive director of the Nevada State Democratic Party. It's a really big message, which makes it hard for voters to connect the dots. Plus, Nevada is a swing state in 2024, so the stakes are high.

BARRETT: We saw last cycle that our senator won by 8,000 votes. That's a tiny margin. So that means we have to be on every community, talking to every voter.

BUSTILLO: Democrats say Nevada has benefited big time from the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act, two of Biden's legislative wins. For example, according to Climate Power, a progressive group, the state will get $12 billion for energy projects and 15,000 new jobs, both among the highest in the nation. But policies don't always translate to voters.

CINTHIA MOORE: It's not like many people have heard about this. And the few that have heard about it - they don't know exactly what it is or what it does.

BUSTILLO: That's Cinthia Moore with the Nevada Environmental Justice Coalition. They have been talking to voters in Las Vegas neighborhoods hardest-hit by hot temperatures.

MOORE: Over 60% of the people in the communities are renters. So even if they did know about the programs and they wanted to act on it, they wouldn't qualify just because they are renting.

BUSTILLO: Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited the state ahead of the Tuesday primary to get voters excited about everything from prescription drug price caps for seniors to major infrastructure builds.

VINCE SAAVEDRA: The Brightline is a high-speed rail from Las Vegas to Southern California.

BUSTILLO: That's Vince Saavedra from the Southern Nevada Building Trades Union.

SAAVEDRA: It's going to create, in southern Nevada, probably roughly 3,000 jobs - a hundred new jobs, like, for people with no construction experience, which is huge.

BUSTILLO: There has been talk of this rail line for years, but new funding from the federal government is finally getting it off the ground. And one major constituency in Nevada, union members, are seeing the connection to Biden.

SAAVEDRA: I think that our union members are starting to slowly get it. I think that to get them to understand the infrastructure piece, they get it for sure.

BUSTILLO: But these projects are, by design, slow to start. That's why people like Jarrett Clark with For Our Future are trying to connect with voters early.

JARRETT CLARK: A lot of things that we're hearing from voters on the ground are those issues that might affect their bank account first, whether that's higher bills, higher energy costs. That's something that we're hearing quite a bit about.

BUSTILLO: So For Our Future is trying to communicate the immediate and long-term benefits to voters.

CLARK: Democrats have to win the win. Now we have to make sure that organizations like ours and Democrats largely own it and take credit.

BUSTILLO: But not everyone is sold. Veronica Ybarra is a Las Vegas resident who voted for Biden last time.

VERONICA YBARRA: I've always been Democrat. But like I said, I don't know about this year. Right now, no. The primary didn't even - but we'll find out and see what happens. But something has to give.

BUSTILLO: Democrats in the state are closely watching the primary election results so they can better map out the next nine months of who to reach, where to reach them and what they care about. Ximena Bustillo, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.