COLORADO SPRINGS — The people who came to see their president rally a boisterous crowd in Colorado’s Trump country drove for hours through snow or camped before dawn in single-digit weather outside an arena on the outskirts of town.
For some, it’s a roaring economy that has them supporting the re-election of Donald Trump — even if they didn’t cast a ballot for him the first time around.
“Neither one of us voted for him — we were both independent,” said D Nelson about herself and sister Denise Frick who drove from a mobile home park in Aurora. “I thought he was an arrogant ass,” Nelson said.
But four years later, the pair found themselves among thousands in a stadium of MAGA hats at a raucous Trump rally for a couple reasons, they said. Close family members who had a hard time finding work are now making good money. Perhaps more than that, though, Frick, said: “He makes us feel like we matter.”
For two hours, the sisters heard a freewheeling Trump, from a stage on the stadium floor flanked by a shimmering wave of red, white and blue campaign signs, rip harshly into his Democratic rivals, TV anchors he doesn’t like, and, yes, even an old 2016 standby, “crooked Hillary.” At one point the president expressed frustration that a South Korean film had won an Academy Award at the latest Oscars.
“What the hell was that all about?” he said. “We got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of it they give them the best movie of the year? … Can we get like Gone With Wind back, please?”
Trump boasted of deporting gang members, fighting terrorists, protecting the Second Amendment, and doing well by veterans. Some of the loudest cheers came when he spoke of the many federal judges he appointed, especially U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch of Colorado. Now rallying for his re-election, Trump leaned on some of the themes that worked for him before, including Clinton’s emails and the “fake news” media. The crowd shouted familiar chants of “Build the Wall” and “Lock her up.”
Some voters who showed up to support Trump said they appreciated what he has done for the military, and spoke of how he has bolstered their bottom line with his tax cuts, and increased oil production.
“He’s taking on the Illuminati, the globalists, the guys that ruined this world,” said Lorraine Beham, 69, an unaffiliated voter with a background in healthcare, photography and nature tours who cast a “lesser of two evils” ballot for Barack Obama in 2012 — and then supported Trump four years later. Since then, she said she’s admired the president for “keeping our borders closed.”
For Melissa Flowers, a 36-year-old nursing student at Pikes Peak Community College, it is how she believes Trump has followed through on his 2016 campaign themes that has her hoping for four more years.
“Since the beginning, he’s said that he’s going to build a wall, and that he was going to bring unemployment rates down, and that he was going to bring jobs to America,” she said. But there’s something else, too. The president has no problem “saying God Bless America, keeping God in schools and Bibles and everything — that’s another big thing that I love about him.”
Thursday’s rally was Trump’s largest yet in El Paso County, the ruby-red heart of his support base in a state where a blue wave surged deep into other key counties during the 2018 midterm elections and swept Democrats into power up and down ballots. While the urban core of Colorado Springs has begun to shed its conservative reputation, the voter-rich outer sprawling exurbs, ringed by five military installations and dotted with megachurches and religious nonprofits, is still Trump’s Colorado firewall.
As for local issues, Trump said his administration is “strongly” considering the Springs area for the home base of the U.S. Space Force; and he urged his supporters to re-elect Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner who appeared with him on stage. In a remark ready-made for Democratic ads in a state with one of the most vulnerable GOP senators in the nation, Trump said, “He’s been with us 100 percent. There was no waver. He’s been with us. There was no waver with Cory.”
Out in the roughly 8,000-seat stands of the Broadmoor World Arena, the crowd was a sea of red hats and American-flag-themed attire. Trump 2020 shirts read “Keep America Great,” “Fuck your feelings,” “God, Guns, Trump,” and “Make Liberals Cry Again.”
While trending older and white — men in biker beards, cowboy hats, and camo; women in American-flag scarves, knit hats, and other accessories — some wore “Latinas for Trump” T-shirts, and black Trump supporters young and old waved signs and sported MAGA gear. At least one youthful Bible study class had come down from the Denver area. Standing out in the crowd were two women in the black-and-white garb of Catholic nuns. Carey McGrath, who drove down from Windsor with her 11-year-old daughter, said one of the most deeply moving aspects of Trump’s presidency started early when Trump’s spiritual adviser, Paula White-Cain, delivered the invocation at his inauguration. Classic rock music pumped through a sound system, and when it didn’t the crowd chanted “USA,” “Build that wall,” and “Four more years.”
Andrew Lindbloom, a 49-year-old ex-military lifelong Republican, drove through rough weather from Durango and stayed the night in a hotel to be in line early. He and his wife recently bought a new house. They no longer have to pay a steep penalty for not having health insurance. “The tax cuts helped me out a lot,” he said.
Outside the bubble of Trumpism, a different Colorado voter’s voice emerged.
Maneuvering an Uber past throngs of supporters in the streets near the arena, Monika Dover explained in a German accent how she might offer something a reporter likely wouldn’t hear at the rally inside: She became a U.S. citizen in August 2018 specifically so she could vote against Trump.
“I don’t like his immigration policies,” she said. “He’s trying to make it more difficult for people to come to this country.”
Isabel Hicks contributed to this report