When President Donald Trump mentioned Hillary Clinton while kicking off his reelection campaign Tuesday night, a sanctuary full of his patriots in Lakewood chanted in unison with his audience in Orlando, Fla.: “Lock her up, lock her up.”
When he skewered the “fake news media,” the crowd at Faith Baptist Church booed and cackled, with sporadic outbreaks of “USA, USA, USA.”
As Trump launched his second campaign, Republicans nationwide and at GOP watch parties in Colorado cheered him on.
Colorado Republicans talked about how to keep him in the White House and help other Republicans, such as U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who faces one of the toughest fights in the country, partly because of Trump’s unpopularity in Colorado.
Weston Imer, a teenager on the Trump Victory Campaign for Jefferson County, read off a list of the president’s accomplishments on jobs, trade and foreign affairs, then advised the church crowd of about 150:
“One of the things we want to focus on in this 2020 campaign is talking to your neighbors and saying, ‘The president isn’t that bad.’ So let’s say you have a light Democrat, and you want to talk to them about the president. Don’t come at like, ‘The president is the greatest president in history,’ which he is compared to George Washington and those other presidents. But make sure you hit on ‘The president is not that bad,’ because that’s how we get across to those independent voters and the swing voters in this state.”
In conservative El Paso County, about 75 people crammed into a room to watch the rally, the air conditioning struggling to keep pace with Trump fever.
Tamra Farah, president of the county GOP, said such events were so crowded, she was getting estimates on knocking down walls to create more room.
The party’s enthusiasm is at an all-time high, Farah said, “and we will go higher.”
As at other watch parties, the county crowd intermittently chanted with the Orlando crowd on TV: “Drain the swamp.” “Build the wall.” “Lock her up.”
But El Paso County’s voter turnout isn’t great, state GOP intern Mason Luke noted, so activists must “reach out to everyone we know.”
Indeed, the road to victory in Colorado leads through El Paso County, said former Secretary of State and current Colorado Springs Councilman Wayne Williams.
“Working together, we can make it happen. We’ve done that for candidate after candidate, and with your help we can do it again,” said Williams, who lost his state post to a Democrat in November.
Denver County GOP Chairwoman Kristina Cook welcomed more than 100 Trump supporters to a watch party at the Tavern Platt Park along fashionable South Pearl Street in Denver.
“What we are building is the largest ground game that this country has ever seen, and it will be historical,” Cook said.
Once Trump began speaking, the crowd turned its attention to the large-screen TVs, letting out whoops and applause at his signature lines.
“Drain the swamp,” some chanted after Trump said his administration has been cleaning up Washington, D.C.
When Trump unveiled “Keep America Great” as a possible theme for his 2020 campaign, the Denver supporters thrust their arms in the air and cheered.
Regina Thomson said she’s ready to campaign for Trump. “I don’t do this because I’m passionate about politics; I do it because I’m passionate about my freedom,” she said.
The Colorado GOP organized the watch parties in El Paso, Denver, Boulder, Adams and Larimer counties, among others.
But as a swing state Trump lost in 2016, Colorado represents a higher political mountain to climb in his bid for a second term.
Investigations, the chance Democrats could seek an impeachment inquiry, and his controversial maneuvers on immigration enforcement and tariffs are taking a bite out of the electorate that Trump and other Republicans would need to carry in this increasingly blue state.
“Donald Trump has never stopped campaigning — and has never started governing,” Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Morgan Carroll said in a statement Tuesday.
“We can expect more of the same: hyperbole, corruption, chaos, and division. Whether it’s ripping away health care from people with pre-existing conditions, giving handouts to his wealthy friends, or waging reckless trade wars that hurt farmers, Donald Trump can’t lie away his record.”
Trump often visited the Centennial State in the latter weeks of his 2016 campaign. At the Western Conservative Summit in Denver that July, he said he would visit Colorado so much that the state would get tired of him.
But he lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton in Colorado by nearly 5 percentage points, losing by a 55 point margin in Denver, 14 points in Arapahoe County and 7 in Jefferson County. Colorado hasn’t gone for a Republican in the president’s race since George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004.
But Trump won El Paso and Weld counties by 22 percentage points each. He won Pueblo County by half a percentage point, the first Republican presidential candidate to win that county since Richard Nixon beat George McGovern there in 1972.
Trump held two rallies in Pueblo in 2016, promising to bring back jobs. Reports in February, however, showed Pueblo continued to lose jobs while the rest of the state was adding workforce at a fever pitch.
Democrats and others are poised to go after him on his attempts to roll back President Barack Obama’s health care programs under the Affordable Care Act.
“Trump’s rally tonight is an insult to the millions of Coloradans who are fed up with his relentless attacks on their health care,” said Tyler Chafee, Colorado spokesman for the Protect Our Care coalition.
“President Trump’s sabotage agenda puts millions of Coloradans at risk of losing coverage, and if his lawsuit to eliminate our health care system is successful, it will strip coverage from 400,000 Coloradans, raise premiums and end protections for millions more with pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes or asthma. ... instead of going to Orlando to play politics and vent his frustrations at a political rally, the president should explain to Colorado voters why he’s so hellbent on taking away their health care.”
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Trump had failed on his promises for “better health care, lower drug prices, massive wage increases, and tax cuts for the working class.”
“He vowed to close tax loopholes for Wall Street and stop companies from closing factories and moving jobs overseas. He even said he’d be the kind of president who wouldn’t take vacations or play golf. But on issue after issue, he broke his promises.”