Biden Heads West to Secure His Standing in Nevada and Arizona

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden is embarking on a three-day campaign swing aimed at shoring up his standing in the Sun Belt as part of an aggressive play to reenergize vital parts of his 2020 electoral coalition.

Much of Biden's time on this trip this week, which includes stops in Nevada, Arizona and Texas, will be geared toward courting the Latino voters who helped power his coalition in 2020 and to emphasizing his pro-union, pro-abortion rights message.

The Democratic president's first stop Tuesday is in Reno, Nevada, where he will meet with local officials and campaign volunteers in Washoe County before heading to Las Vegas to promote his administration's housing policies.

Next he'll travel to Phoenix for another campaign stop in a critical swing county paired with an event talking up what he has done to bolster the computer chip manufacturing sector.

Biden's push with Latino voters this week, which includes the formal launch of the Latinos con Biden-Harris (Spanish for Latinos with Biden-Harris) initiative on Tuesday, is also part of the campaign's broader efforts to put in place the infrastructure to re-engage various constituencies that will be critical to the president's reelection. That effort is all the more crucial as key parts of Biden's base, such as Black and Hispanic adults, have become increasingly disenchanted with the president's performance in office.

In an AP-NORC poll conducted in February, 38% of U.S. adults approved of how Biden was handling his job. Nearly 6 in 10 Black adults (58%) approved, compared to 36% of Hispanic adults. Black adults are more likely than white and Hispanic adults to approve of Biden, but that approval has dropped in the three years since Biden took office.

Biden's reelection campaign, along with allied Democratic groups, has opened offices in Washoe County and in specific areas of Las Vegas that aides said will help the campaign to target Black, Latino and Asian American voters.

Bilingual campaign organizers are already in place in Arizona, and the campaign has opened an office in Maryvale, a major Latino community in Phoenix. The campaign has hired more than 40 staffers in Nevada and Arizona.

Campaign officials believe that tuned-out voters are starting to pay attention to the reality of a rematch between Biden and former President Donald Trump now that the two candidates have clinched their respective nominations. They're trying to boost coalition-building efforts in battleground states now that the matchup is set, using the energy coming out of Biden's State of the Union earlier this month to jolt their campaign momentum.

That includes, for example, ensuring that chapters are in place across college campuses so that students have a place to organize and that campaign offices are open and stocked with yard signs, campaign literature and other materials. Democrats are hoping that Trump and the GOP will struggle to catch up in key states.

The campaign has already established Women for Biden-Harris, an effort led by first lady Jill Biden to mobilize female voters who were a vital part of Biden's winning coalition in 2020, as well as Students for Biden-Harris, which will focus on getting young voters organized and active. Latinos con Biden-Harris will formally launch at Biden's Phoenix stop on Tuesday and include other campaign events, such as volunteer trainings and house parties, in other battleground states including Nevada, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin later this week.

"This isn't stuff that you can just stand up. This is stuff that requires work," Quentin Fulks, principal deputy campaign manager for the Biden campaign, said in an interview. "It does require training. It does require making sure that your volunteers and supporters have what they need on the ground."

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee dismissed dozens of staffers after new leaders closely aligned with Trump took over last week. Those let go include people who worked at the party's community centers that helped build relationships with minority groups in some Democratic-leaning areas. The committee's new leadership has since insisted that those centers will remain open.

The RNC, already strapped for cash, is also trying to bat away assumptions that it'll pay for Trump's ever-escalating legal bills as he faces multiple criminal cases.

Still, the Biden campaign and the broader Democratic Party are confronting their own struggles, despite their cash and organizational advantages. On top of Biden's weaker job performance numbers, Democrats are seeing less support from key voting blocs come election time: While Biden won 63% of Hispanic voters in 2020, that percentage shrunk to 57% for Democratic candidates in the 2022 midterms, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of the national electorate.

Despite the waning approval numbers, campaign officials say they are confident that once the contrast between the president's agenda and Trump's plans for a second term are presented to disillusioned members of Biden's coalition, they will ultimately back the president.

"I can say this as a Latina, we always come late to the party. We like to make a grand entrance," said Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. "I think that's what you will see again because when it comes down to people making a real decision that is consequential to their future, the future of their children, the future of their communities, it's not some random phone call from an anonymous pollster -- I think that the Democratic coalition will come home."

Alongside the campaign stops, the administration is pairing official White House events on matters that have particular significance in the two states. In Arizona, Biden will continue talking up a law he signed encouraging domestic manufacturing of computer chips, which has already spurred significant private investment in the state, especially in Phoenix.

And in Nevada, Biden will continue promoting a new housing proposal that would offer a mortgage relief credit for first-time homebuyers and a seller's tax credit to encourage homeowners to offload their starter homes. The issue of housing is sure to resonate in Nevada, where home prices have nearly doubled since early 2016, according to Zillow, the online real estate marketplace.

"As the president has said, the bottom line is, we have to build, build, build," said Lael Brainard, the director of the White House National Economic Council.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., stressed that Democrats cannot take the state -- which has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 2004 -- for granted, even as she dismissed some polling that shows Trump with an edge in Nevada.

"You got to be there talking to voters, particularly in Nevada," Cortez Masto said. "It's still small enough, it's 3 million people, they expect you to show up, right? It's a swing state. It's very diverse. And people just expect that type of engagement, so they can decide for themselves."

Biden's three-day trip will wrap up in Texas, where he will host a trio of fundraisers in Dallas and Houston.