“I have one apology to you. I can’t speak Spanish,” Biden said, before explaining that he once made a speech at a Hispanic ball in Delaware and “butchered the Spanish.”
“I got a standing ovation,” he said. “But I’m afraid to try it again.”
Nevada, which will be the third state to hold its nominating contest with a caucus set for Feb. 22, has been overshadowed this year amid hotly contested campaigns in the first two states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
But with a growing likelihood that the crowded Democratic presidential field will remain a muddle after those states, some candidates are starting to redouble their efforts here in hopes of positioning themselves for another chance at gaining some momentum before turning to more delegate-rich contests in March.
Nevada is important for another reason too — it’s the first state where candidates can demonstrate their strength among Hispanic voters, a key voting bloc within the party. Iowa and New Hampshire are heavily white, and South Carolina, where Biden holds a wide lead, is heavily black.
Both Biden and Buttigieg toured Nevada this weekend with campaign stops tailored toward Latino voters.
At his meetings with Latino voters, Buttigieg pitched himself as a fresh face who could shake loose the decades-long stalemate on immigration reform.
He called for “a pathway to citizenship for all of the 11 million undocumented people who are in this country” and promised to reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on the first day of his presidency.
He also highlighted a program he helped create in South Bend, giving undocumented immigrants a “community resident card” that served as government identification. Many undocumented immigrants cannot obtain a driver’s license or other government ID.
“I see good families in our community torn apart by this, and it does not make America safer,” he said.
A similar theme runs through Buttigieg’s ads targeting Latino voters, running on Spanish-language radio stations here. Buttigieg himself voices the ads in Spanish.
During his last trip to Las Vegas, in late December, he spent much of his time in small-group meetings with leaders from various communities, including a roundtable with local Latino leaders.
Biden, meanwhile, tried to assure voters he would prioritize the Latino community. When asked about recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico, Biden said if it had happened under his watch, he would be asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess the situation immediately.
“I would be surging all the help that is needed as if it had happened in any other part of America,” said Biden, whose broader message often focuses on his experience over intricate policy details. He paints himself as the most experienced person in the race and argues he’s best able to begin fixing problems caused by four years of President Trump. “The next president is not going to have a lot of time for on-the-job training.”
Biden also told the crowd in Las Vegas he had 80 prominent Latino endorsers, including five from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Several of his endorsers, including former labor secretary and current Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member Hilda Solis and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Tex.), hosted events for him in Las Vegas over the weekend. On Saturday, in both English and Spanish, they again voiced their support for Biden.
Juan Campuzano, a 45-year-old Las Vegas resident, said he thought rolling out endorsements like that “can come off the wrong way, like ‘I have a lot of Hispanic friends.’ ” But he also said he thinks Biden can bring together the most people.
“You just got to look at his track record,” said Campuzano, who plans to caucus for Biden. “He’s been with us for some 40 years.”