Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Donald Trump and Marco Rubio will bring their campaigns to Las Vegas on Thursday — along with an ongoing squabble.
The two campaigns have no plans to cross paths, but their schedules reveal much about their strategies to win. Rubio, hovering around 11 percent among Republican voters in national polls, will continue a steady campaign that banks on his longstanding ties to the state. Trump, the front-runner, will rely on a little more glitz.
Trump, the billionaire outsider whose campaign the New Yorker compared to a circus, will be staging a rally at Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere Theater at Treasure Island. At full capacity, the theater sits over 1,500 spectators. By showbiz standards, it's small. By political ones, it's big.
Rubio, the Florida senator who lived in Las Vegas during his teenage years, will turn his three-day visit into a veritable homecoming, including a private meeting with donors titled the “Quarter Four Strategy Summit” that will include with a flag football game, a “team talk” and a strategy session called “Quarterbacking Victory.” Rubio will also address voters at three events: a rally in Sun City Summerlin, a happy hour at Havana Grill in Las Vegas and a speech in Boulder City. Expect him to do more retail campaigning than Trump.
The extended visit will give Rubio time to score points in Nevada, which hosts the third contest in the presidential nominating season. Rubio will try to signal he’s in the race for the long haul, said David Damore, an associate political science professor at UNLV.
Trump has an 11-point lead in the polls over Rubio in Iowa and New Hampshire. Outsider candidates Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina made small cuts into Trump’s lead, which helps Rubio as he positions himself as the establishment favorite, especially given Jeb Bush’s continuing difficulties. Rubio has brushed off Trump’s attempts to instigate a feud, most recently by sending the senator a box of bottled water — a prank referencing Rubio’s infamous reach off camera for a gulp of water during his rebuttal of the State of the Union in 2013. “Yeah, I drink water,” Rubio said on Fox. “So what?”
The two men also differ on policy. Trump has called for massive deportations of immigrants and for the deployment of ground troops to fight ISIS. The senator has supported comprehensive immigration reform in the past, before backing off on the issue, and has criticized Trump’s proposed support of the Assad regime in Syria as a proxy to fight ISIS. “I think they both need to go,” Rubio said.
One key similarity: Both believe they will be the next president — and that Nevada voters will help them get there.