Denver Republicans cheer Trump, at least publicly

While they publicly applauded the performance of Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump in last night’s debate, privately, some Colorado Republicans are ready to vote and call it quits.

Wednesday night’s final debate between businessman Trump and Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drew a standing-room only crowd to The Tavern, a bar in the Old South Gaylord neighborhood east of Washington Park.

Every TV in the room, a dozen of them, was tuned to Fox News, whose Chris Wallace moderated the debate.

The watch party was jointly sponsored by the Denver Republicans and the Denver Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT group. The audience of about 60 was an all-age, from millennials to senior citizens, and was mostly white.

Among the exceptions: Raymond Garcia, who is running for House District 1, which includes low-income Westwood to its north and neighborhoods east of Bow Mar at its southern border.

Garcia enthusiastically cheered Trump throughout the 90-minute debate. But at the end, he said he was disappointed by Trump’s performance. “I had hoped for a more heated debate,” Garcia told The Colorado Independent. He wanted Trump to focus more on the emails, Benghazi and other issues that have dogged Clinton throughout the campaign season. “There’s so much” Trump could have raised, Garcia said.

Garcia’s most important issue? The economy, which he says is in the tank. It’s an issue that resonates with all voters in House District 1, including the district’s Latino population, which is among the highest in the state, at more than 50 percent. But Garcia has an uphill climb to win the seat: Democratic voters outnumber registered Republicans more than 2-to-1.

Republicans Cathleen and Tim McHugh are recent transplants to Denver from Ann Arbor, Michigan. They left the watch party before it ended, telling The Independent they have already voted. Trump hadn’t been their first or even second choice, and like many Colorado Republicans who have lived here much longer, they supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cathy McHugh said the two most important issues to her are the appointment of the next justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and the protection of the Second Amendment. She believes the entire U.S. Constitution is threatened, not just the Second Amendment. Also under attack, she said, are freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Tim McHugh was tougher on Trump. “He was disorganized,” Tim said, calling both candidates “despicable liars.” He added, “The decision, then, is who we trust a little bit more.”

For Tim, that means Trump. “Who knows what Donald Trump will do? He changes his story so frequently I don’t know whether to believe him or not,” he said. “I’d rather not vote for either of them, but will pick the lesser of two evils.” He says that’s Trump, “not as a person, but for the country.” His choice is also based on Trump’s stricter interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, Tim said.

Is it tough to be a Republican in Denver? The McHughs, who live in central Denver, said yes, but they have been walking precincts for the GOP and have found people eager to have respectful dialogue, even those who don’t share their political views. “It’s hard to go door-to-door if people are going to jump on each other,” Cathy McHugh said.

Joe Klein, vice-president of the Log Cabin Republicans, said Trump clearly had been studying for this debate. At times, however, Clinton appeared to “get to” the Republican nominee, but Klein said Trump fought back and was much better than in the previous two debates. After Trump’s performance, Klein said he was “much more comfortable with Trump as president.”

Lisa Wolfe of Aurora, who stayed last night until the bitter end, was more enthusiastic than most. Her biggest issue is illegal immigration, which Trump hit forcefully during the debate, even calling undocumented immigrants “bad hombres.” She liked that Trump was better on sticking to the issues than he has been in other debates. “I think Trump was brilliant,” she said.

But the McHughs are hoping for better candidates in the future. It might not happen in their lifetimes — they’re both retired — but they believe that will be the case by the time their grandchildren grow up.

“The pendulum will swing back,” Cathy added. “Hopefully, this is the bottom.”

Photos by Allen Tian and Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Independent

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.