LAS VEGAS — President Trump pressed his tough immigration stance at a Nevada political convention Saturday, as he boosted the candidacy of Dean Heller, the only Republican US senator seeking reelection in a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton won in 2016.
Trump and Heller have papered over their once prickly relationship to present a united front in their shared goal of helping Republicans maintain, if not expand, their thin 51-to-49 majority in the Senate.
Heller was among the officials waiting on the sweltering airport tarmac to greet Trump.
In remarks to several hundred people attending the Nevada GOP Convention, Trump portrayed himself as tough against illegal immigration, saying at one point, ‘‘I think I got elected largely because we are strong on the border.’’
He told hundreds in the audience that ‘‘we have to be very strong’’ to keep people, including violent gang members, from entering the country illegally.
Trump sharply criticized Heller’s Democratic opponent, Representative Jacky Rosen, and tagged her with one of the derisive nicknames he is fond of giving his opponents: ‘‘Wacky Jacky.’’
‘‘Wacky Jacky is campaigning with Pocahontas. Do you believe this?’’ Trump said, resurrecting his nickname for Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a vocal Trump critic. ‘‘When you see that, that’s not the senator you want,’’ he added.
Rosen quickly responded on Twitter. ‘‘Is that the best you’ve got?” she asked.
At the state party convention in Reno, Warren told Democratic delegates the ‘‘soul of our country’’ is at stake in November’s midterm elections.
She said voters in the battleground state will play a pivotal role in putting their party on the road to taking back the White House in 2020. And she vowed that, ‘‘change is coming.’’
Warren said Trump and the GOP leaders in Congress are beholden to corporate profits and polluters, and stand for ‘‘hatefulness, ugliness, and cruelty.’’
Taking aim at the administration’s immigration policy, she said Trump has called immigrants ‘‘animals’’ and ‘‘ripped children from the arms of their mommas.’’
Warren, who has been mentioned as a possible challenger to Trump in 2020, told the spirited crowd their grassroots effort prevailed in 2016 and their energy will carry Rosen to victory in her bid to unseat Heller.
Warren said she doesn’t just want a party strong enough to drive Trump ‘‘and his enablers out of power.’’ She says she wants a party strong enough to ‘‘take on the hard job of cleaning up the mess they will leave behind once they are gone.’’
At least 300 people protesting Trump’s policy of separating families at the southern border gathered on a sidewalk outside the Las Vegas casino where the president met behind closed doors with supporters before addressing the convention.
The president’s motorcade drove past a smaller group of people holding signs that said ‘‘Resist’’ and ‘‘History Has Its Eyes on You.’’
Trump also was to hold a separate event in Nevada promoting the tax cuts he signed into law six months ago.