Hours after Donald Trump received the support of Nevada’s largest newspaper Sunday, President Barack Obama was on the ground in Las Vegas making an endorsement of his own in a swing state that remains too close for comfort for Democrats hoping to return to the majority in the U.S. Senate.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s embrace of Trump lacked the drama of an episode of The Apprentice. Long known for its conservative but libertarian editorial philosophy, it had rarely endorsed a Democrat. And when it was sold to the family of casino multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson last December, the newspaper no longer embraced the decriminalization of marijuana, but has continued excoriating Democrats.
With its seal of approval, the Review-Journal became the largest newspaper in the country to endorse Trump. In doing so, it joined smaller newspapers located in Waxahachie, Texas, St. Joseph, Missouri, and Santa Barbara, California, as the only print publications to buy Trump’s act.
This election season has seen the editorial boards of newspapers across America spurn Trump even when declining to embrace Hillary Clinton. When the eternally conservative editorial board of The Arizona Republic sides with a Democrat for the first time in its history, it’s not a mere blip on the media radar.
Despite that, the national response to the Review-Journal’s endorsement has been muted, perhaps because it was so expected given that GOP Daddy Warbucks Adelson had long since signed on as a Trump man. The New York Times called the thumbs up “a bit of welcome news” that “may come with something of an asterisk.”
Speaking at Cheyenne High School on the first weekend of early voting, Obama provided the footnotes. He cuffed around Trump but focused special attention on the battle to succeed Sen. Harry Reid, the battle-scarred former Majority Leader from the Battle Born State. The Senate race pits Reid’s choice, former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, against Koch Industries darling Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who is still paying the price with Tea Party conservatives after un-endorsing Trump following revelations of the celebrity billionaire’s recorded admission that his status as a star enabled him to grope women with impunity. Since the creepy Access Hollywood tape was released, Heck has lost traction in polls he’d been leading for months.
Obama reminded his audience of Heck’s political Twister.
“Now that Trump’s poll numbers have cratered, he is saying ‘I’m not supporting him,’” Obama said, enjoying the moment. “Too late. You don’t get credit for that.”
And Heck’s long promotion of himself as the stable, patriotic “family values” choice was played for a laugh by the president. Heck had held fast to his endorsement through many revelations of Trump’s denigrating comments toward women, immigrants, the disabled, and even a war hero, Arizona Sen. John McCain. Heck uncomfortably backed away from Trump only after the video went public, a conversation Obama told the crowd was tantamount to “bragging about actions that qualify as sexual assault.”
In firing up Nevadans to get out the vote, Obama also took time to laud down-ticket legislative candidates Joyce Woodhouse and Nicole Cannizzaro.
Obama called Trump a product of the GOP’s Tea Party schizophrenia that has backfired on Republicans whether they’ve embraced or shunned him.
“So Donald Trump did not start this,” Obama said. “He just did what he always did, which is slap his name on it, take credit for it and promote it.”
In its Sunday editorial, the Review-Journal continued the Trump promotion.
“Make no mistake, a Hillary Clinton administration would indulge the worst instincts of the authoritarian left and continue to swell the bloated regulatory state while running the nation deeper into the red in pursuit of ‘free’ college and health care,” the editorial exclaimed, reducing Trump’s business and personal scandals to mere “impulsiveness and overheated rhetoric.” He “promises to be a source of disruption and discomfort to the privileged, back-scratching political elites for whom the nation’s strength and solvency have become subservient to power’s pursuit and preservation.”
In Nevada, where Adelson recently used some of his own unchecked power to ram through, in a special legislative session, an unprecedented $750 million public financing component for a privately controlled sports stadium development, such doublespeak and willful blindness barely raise an eyebrow these days.
The editorial downplayed Trump’s vast catalog of slights and denigrations and absolved him of his prolific prevarications. It even overlooked his many corporate bankruptcies and propensity for refusing to pay his bills, calling Trump a man who would bring a “corporate sensibility” to the Beltway bureaucracy. For his eerie man-crush on Russian bully Vladimir Putin, Trump received another mulligan.
The reaction to the endorsement from Democrats has been subdued. One normally loquacious party spokesman said candidates “have ignored it.” After all, it was hardly a surprise.
Those who imagined Adelson’s $140 million purchase of the Review-Journal last December might be anything other than a decision to promote his business, personal, and political interests were kidding themselves. The inevitable Trump endorsement was telegraphed in September when the newspaper hired right-wing reactionary and unabashed birther Wayne Allyn Root to write a column twice a week: Not on the editorial page, but on the front-page of the Local section with the news stories. His writing is short on analysis, but long on exclamations of affection for Trump, whom he’s introduced at political rallies.
That’s not a column, that’s an in-kind contribution.
Now that the Review-Journal has officially signed on to Team Trump, it’s a brave new world in Las Vegas.