CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — In a campaign ad, Nevada gubernatorial candidate Michele Fiore steps out of a Ford F-150 with a handgun holstered on her hip and tells viewers she was one of the first elected officials to endorse Donald Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
“You better believe I was attacked for it,” Fiore says, affirming her commitment to the former president as a country-rock-style guitar riff plays in the background.
She hopes Trump is watching.
In addition to purchasing ads in Nevada media markets like her competitors, Fiore is investing campaign funds to air her 60-second segment in Palm Beach, Fla., where the former president spends winters at his Mar-a-Lago club.
Her campaign spent $6,270 to broadcast 62 television spots on Fox News in the West Palm Beach–Fort Pierce media market during in the final week of November, Federal Communications Commission filings show. Trump has been splitting his time since leaving office between Florida, his official residence, and his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., where he spent most of last summer.
When Fiore’s ads aired over the Thanksgiving holiday, he and his family were at Mar-a-Lago.
Candidates and interest groups have long used targeted cable ads as a way to reach the television-obsessed Trump, often lining up spots in Washington and Florida to catch his attention when he was in the White House or vacationing. Fiore’s move reflects Trump’s enduring post-presidential influence in the Republican Party and underscores how his endorsement is seen as a potential game-changer by Republicans embroiled in primary battles throughout the country.
Since Trump left the White House, much of the competition for his attention has played out in Florida. In one particularly vivid example, a multifaced billboard on the boulevard connecting Palm Beach International Airport to Mar-a-Lago is often emblazoned with messages from supporters and detractors.
At the club, Trump has held dozens of fundraisers and other events for Republicans running for U.S. Senate, governor and other offices, including for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Sarah Sanders, his former press secretary now running for governor of Arkansas. The venue typically guarantees a strong showing, thanks to its loyal, paid membership and Trump often appearing, even at events he doesn’t host.
From the archives (July 2021): Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota targeting barbs at fellow Republicans viewed as mulling 2024 presidential bids
He’s also welcomed a succession of candidates seeking his support, including Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin who is running against incumbent Republican Gov. Brad Little. Trump endorsed McGeachin a week after she visited Mar-a-Lago in November.
Fiore, a Las Vegas city councilwoman, is one of at least 10 candidates running for governor in Nevada, a swing state Trump lost narrowly in 2020.
She was elected in 2012 to the Nevada statehouse, where she championed gun rights and introduced a controversial proposal that would have dramatically curbed federal power to manage public lands and waters in Nevada. Her ties to and support of rancher Cliven Bundy and his family during armed standoffs between self-described citizen militia members and federal law enforcement thrust her into a national spotlight in 2014 and 2016.
From the archives (October 2021): Pro-business Republicans unsettled as Idaho’s right-wing lieutenant governor tries to usurp power with GOP governor on Texas trip
This year, Fiore is running on a platform that includes opposition to coronavirus mandates, support for law enforcement against protesters she calls “domestic terrorists” and reversing Nevada’s decision to send all active voters mail-in ballots.