In Las Vegas, Biden Speaks the Name He Often Doesn’t

Just a few months ago, President Biden rarely said the name of his likely opponent in the 2024 presidential election — former President Donald J. Trump — instead invoking other Republicans as proxies during public events or, on occasion, referring simply to “the former guy.”

But speaking in Las Vegas on Friday, Mr. Biden didn’t hold back.

“Trump just talks to talk,” he said at the Carpenters International Training Center in Las Vegas, a union hub favored by Democrats. “We walk the walk.”

And then his words turned even sharper: “He likes to say America is a failing nation. Frankly, he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.”

Mr. Biden was in Las Vegas to announce $8.2 billion in funding for passenger rail projects, and he used the opportunity to criticize his predecessor’s approach to infrastructure, saying that “the last administration tried to cancel” a rail project in California and that his latest investments “stand in stark contrast.”

“He always talked about ‘infrastructure week,’ four years of ‘infrastructure week,’ but it failed — he failed,” Mr. Biden said, referring to Mr. Trump. “On my watch, instead of infrastructure week, America’s having ‘infrastructure decade.’”

The shift comes as officials for the Biden campaign have taken an interest in trying to use Mr. Trump, and his actions and words both during and after his presidency, as a foil to bolster Mr. Biden’s re-election effort. That strategy is one that some other elected Democrats across the country have been less keen on, arguing that Mr. Biden needs to do more to promote his own accomplishments while in office.

A poll released last month by The New York Times and Siena College found that Mr. Trump was leading Mr. Biden in Nevada by 10 points, the largest margin across six critical battleground states surveyed.

Mr. Trump, who in most national polls leads the field of Republican primary candidates by more than 40 percentage points, will hold a rally in Reno later this month.

Mr. Biden’s visit to Las Vegas came on the heels of two tragedies in the state: the killing of two state troopers in a hit-and-run last week, and a shooting on Wednesday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, that killed three faculty members. Mr. Biden met with the university’s president and some of its students and other community members before delivering his remarks on the infrastructure funding, according to the White House.

For a few minutes during his speech, he paused to address gun violence, renewing his calls for Congress to “step up” and pass legislation that would include restrictions on assault rifles and universal background checks.

“Folks, we got to get smart,” he said. “There have been over 600 mass shootings in America this year alone, plus daily acts of gun violence that don’t even make the national news.” He added, “This is not normal.”

But the event’s primary focus was to promote his administration’s agenda, and in doing so, indirectly make his pitch for another four years in office to a friendly audience.

Mr. Biden, who earned the nickname Amtrak Joe after commuting by train between Delaware and Washington, D.C., for decades, particularly praised an allocation for a 218-mile high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

He also talked up the latest employment figures released Friday by the Labor Department — which reported that employers had added 199,000 jobs in November — briefly acknowledging that “we know the prices are still too high for too many things.”

Mr. Biden appeared alongside several members of Nevada’s congressional delegation, including Senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat who is facing a competitive re-election next year after defeating an incumbent herself in 2018.

Nevada is one of several key states where Democrats will need to succeed next year to retain control of the White House and the Senate. While Nevada has voted for Democrats in the last several presidential elections — including Mr. Biden in 2020 — other races have been more inconsistent.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto won re-election in the 2022 midterms in a narrow victory, helping the Democrats maintain control of the Senate. But that same year, voters ousted the state’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, in favor of his Republican challenger, Joseph Lombardo.

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