The last Donald Trump rally I attended was in New Hampshire in February. There was a slow, steady freezing rain. It was uncomfortable. But compared to the 100-degree heat that Trump supporters in the thousands braved to see his rally outside of Las Vegas, that was nothing. But the sweating didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, not just for the Trump, but for the cops and firemen the crowd regularly cheered whenever they saw them.
The news in Nevada is that it is in play. Although Hillary won its six electoral votes last time around, the Silver State is in the Trump campaign’s sights as a potential pickup. If you ask anyone in attendance at the Xtreme Manufacturing plant in Henderson Sunday night, the victory is as close to a sure thing as Nevada can provide. The Trump fan is nothing if not optimistic, and after all, they have had good reason to be.
Mary and Thomas drove five hours from California to attend. It was his first rally but Mary started back in 2015 at then-candidate Trump’s Fresno rally. She told me that for Hispanic voters like her, a key demographic in Nevada and one the president has made gains with in polling, are switching to Trump because “religion is under attack.” She also said they made the trek in large part because a Trump rally is “a happy place,” and as the crowd danced to “YMCA” in the background it was difficult to disagree.
Jerry was originally from Kentucky but lives in Nevada now. When I asked him what he wanted to hear from the president, he told me, “The same stuff, just keep doing the same stuff.” Not far from him, Ted was eating a sandwich, waiting for the remarks to begin. I asked him what he would say to the people freaking out that thousands were indoors without masks. He just kind of shrugged. I asked if he was worried about it. “No, not really,” he replied.
Shawn a Los Angeles transplant who makes the same money in a new job in Nevada. Because of Nevada’s lower cost of living compared to California, he told me, “I live like a king now.” He also had a message for the mask brigade: “If you’re scared, stay home. Nobody here wants a new normal.” His friend Cody, who is a local activist, concurred.
That was the overwhelming feeling among those I spoke with. The clear line between a President Trump who wants the country open as soon as possible and candidate Joe Biden whose campaign has almost seemed to embrace the Chinese virus restrictions was front and center on their minds.
Among the warmest welcomes of the night was for an early speaker, Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence. His standing ovation spoke to the importance of the role he plays in the image of the administration right now. His star is quite clearly on the rise. Another big favorite was Kimberly Guilfoyle, and yes, her aggressive style that caught a lot of criticism at the GOP convention makes a lot more sense with a passionate crowd cheering it along.
Trump was in a very jovial mood, even by his own standards, joking about how boring the NFL has become, and winning laughs at the expense of Sleepy Joe Biden in the basement. There were more jokes than usual, maybe an homage to the Mecca of comedy that Las Vegas is. He almost accused Biden of using drugs for his events based on what he saw in the debates “with the 24 other lunatics,” referring to the field Biden defeated to win the nomination.
It wasn’t exactly vintage Trump, but it was very up-tempo, very optimistic, and the crowd ate it up with relish. Trump took the crowd through anger as well, at flag burners and anarchists, but never failed to bring them back to their happy place with a smile or an individual interaction. One almost has the sense that he knows, win or lose, the campaign rallies are coming to an end soon. He might be the only person who enjoys them more than the crowd does, and it shows.
It struck me at some point during the event that this was the first time since February that I have been in a large crowd like this. It was strange and wonderful to feel that energy again, having been without it for so long. It was palpable and sweet.
Most of the media didn’t seem to feel that way. Several major networks declined to fully cover the event. CNN only sent a pool cameraman. I guess they are expendable? These people are not scared, though. They are done with being locked down, and it is easy to see why. People need each other, and the joy in Henderson overflowed.