He will find a city skeptical about any political leader’s ability to offer solutions and real healing. The Republican, who narrowly lost the state in the 2016 election to Hillary Clinton, will find some people ready to listen and many convinced that he cannot help.
The skepticism mounted for some a day earlier, when Trump’s remarks about the devastating hurricane that ripped through Puerto Rico seemed to minimize the damage there.
“It’s our hometown. It hurt mentally, physically and emotionally.”
“His job is to bring people together however he can do it,” said LeBlanc, a musician, pausing during a dinner with two friends at a deli near the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “But he just doesn’t seem to grasp that concept.”
LeBlanc’s companions — Sabrina Franks and Lynn Frankenberger — made it clear they also were not fans of Trump’s, but said they thought it was important to give him a chance to bring people together.
“‘We are the United States of America, not the divided States of America,’ is what he said,” recalled Frankenberger. “I am just going to trust that [Trump] can mend some hearts and help heal some of the division and some of that pain that’s here.”
In a visit to Las Vegas nine days before last fall’s election, Trump torched Clinton for “criminal” behavior and gloated over the sexting emails of Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic congressman and estranged husband of a top Clinton aide.
Trump was blown out in Clark County, the Nevada population Center that includes Las Vegas — a deficit so large that Clinton managed to squeeze out a 47.9 percent to 45.5 percent victory in the state.
“We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by,” he told reporters. But it seemed unlikely that time would come today, so shortly after the terrible attack here, which injured more than 500 people.
And on Wednesday morning, Trump, speaking to reporters while preparing to leave for his trip, called the Las Vegas shooting “a very sad thing.”
“It’s a very, very sad day for me, personally,” Trump said.
Some Las Vegans said they think Trump’s visit can do some good.
“I think he loves America and has tried to get something done. He really has,” said Bobbie Dugan, a bell desk worker on the Vegas Strip. “He just hasn’t been given a chance.” The Trump voter said she expected Trump to strike the right tone, though she acknowledged: “You never know what he is going to say.”
Marcus Moreland, a Democrat and restaurant deliveryman, said he did not vote for Trump but also believes his visit is important. “He can tell people to keep striving and to keep up what they do every day,” Moreland said.
In a small, random sample of locals, though, most remained to be persuaded of the president’s goodwill. Abraham Covarrubias said of the shooting: “It’s our hometown. It hurt mentally, physically and emotionally.”
But to Covarrubias, Trump still needs to prove he is more than “a great businessman and an actor.” Said the 25-year-old, who works at a company that washes work uniforms: “He knows manipulation very well. But can he do any real good? I don’t know how.”