A crowd capped at 250 sat in spaced-out chairs during Vice President Mike Pence's outdoor rally at the Boulder City airport on Thursday, with many attendees reaffirming their support for the Republican ticket even after a tumultuous week that included the president’s COVID diagnosis and hospitalization.
Pence's visit comes after a week-and-a-half long avalanche of critical moments in the Trump campaign: The New York Times reporting on President Donald Trump's income taxes, the first presidential debate, Trump's COVID diagnosis and treatment, Trump's announcement that he was ending negotiations for a broad COVID relief package and instead asking for stand alone bills and the only vice presidential debate.
Trump's COVID diagnosis — which garnered mixed reactions from death wishes to "get well soon" sentiments on social media — did not affect many attendees' opinion of him. It even elevated the president in the eyes of some supporters, who praised him for working throughout the illness and argued that the experience will improve his ability to help Americans during the pandemic.
Although many attendees brought masks with them, a little more than half did not wear a mask during the event, and many more removed their masks as temperatures rose and Pence gave his remarks.
Still, the rally was a stark contrast to Trump's events in Minden and Henderson weeks before, which defied state-mandated capacity limits and featured little to no social distancing and mask wearing.
Aside from the 250 people who were allowed to enter the event, several hundred people dressed in patriotic attire and decked out with Trump paraphernalia were outside the venue's gates, according to the Boulder City Fire Department.
The Nevada Independent spoke with several attendees.
Tanya Sams Jones, 53, Las Vegas
Tanya Sams Jones, 53, attended both the Trump rally and the Pence rally because she "believes in everything they believe in." Her strongest alignment with the Trump agenda is with his stance on abortion.
Although she said she isn't afraid of the virus, she said that Trump's experience with COVID is reassuring for those who are. She said his experience allows him to have a better perspective and improve his response, including his promise to give "hundreds of thousands" of free doses of Regeneron, an experimental treatment he is receiving, to Americans with COVID.
A Las Vegas resident since 2001, Sams Jones has been campaigning door-to-door for Trump and thinks that kind of effort will put Republicans over the edge to take Nevada in 2020 after three cycles of Democratic victories for president.
"I go out and I knock on doors. And it's a lot of us going out there, and the Democrats aren't," she said.
Audrey, 15, Boulder City
At 15, Audrey is still a few years from being able to cast her ballot, but if she could vote this November, she would be voting for Trump "for sure."
"If more people like him were in office, especially here, I could actually be in school right now," she said. "I think he has more jobs for us … I've been looking for a job, too, since I want a car, but I can't get a job … I feel like he'll bring more jobs to America when Biden would just take them over to China."
Born and raised in Boulder City, Audrey said the idea that young people lean liberal is partly true, and attributes that to a lack of research. She said she wishes people would look at more than one source and "dig deeper" into perspectives of both sides of the political spectrum.
"A lot of kids just listen to what the media says, but they don't look into the facts," she said. "I know my friends and I are very for Trump, and I think we listen for facts over whatever they're saying."
Rusty McClain, 65, Boulder City
Rusty McClain, 65, came to the rally to see the man he hopes will mount a 2024 campaign and become the 46th president after Trump is re-elected in 2020.
McClain, a retired heavy equipment operator who's lived in Boulder City for 40 years, said he's enjoyed the economy under the Trump administration and that the pandemic is "an unfortunate accident" from China that the administration handled "the best that they can with what they've got."
He said that he is worried about the virus, as he thinks everyone should be, but he wasn't too concerned with it spreading at the rally because attendees were following social distancing guidelines. Although some have critiqued Trump for knowingly downplaying the severity of the virus early on in the pandemic, McClain thinks the president was justified because he was trying to avoid adding to existing panic.
"I could see the panic. Just when there was all the shortages, and people were going to the store, there was already a panic," he said. "I think if he would have said how bad it really was, it would have even made it worse."
On Trump coming under fire last week when The New York Times revealed that he had only paid $750 in individual income tax in 2017, McClain said he saw the president's use of loopholes as a good thing.
"I think he's a smart man, and he was just using the laws that are already in place," McClain said. "God bless him for being a smart man. That's why he's president."
Don Taylor, 76, Henderson
Don Taylor, 76, tested positive for the coronavirus in July and was sick for four weeks, including a three-day stay at the hospital that resulted in a $56,000 bill. Still, he said his illness "wasn't bad" and that it hasn't affected his thoughts on Trump, whom he voted for in 2016. In fact, Taylor is voting for Trump again in part because of how he's handled the COVID pandemic.
A lifelong Republican and 55-year Henderson resident, Taylor said he disagrees with "King Sisolak's" response to the pandemic. He said he wants the state to reopen to what it was before the coronavirus struck, eliminating capacity limits and reopening schools. Doing so would mean that people would get the virus, he said, but treatment methods would help them recover. He pointed to his own sickness as evidence of this.
"This whole lockdown is destroying families. It's destroying people's livelihood," Taylor said. "We got to get the economy open, and this Sisolak, he believes in the science — well, the science is all over the damn place. They keep changing it. But he doesn't listen to it, not the one where they say it's okay to open up. He doesn't listen to that."
Despite the Silver State going mostly blue in the last few presidential cycles, Taylor believes Trump will win Nevada because of Sisolak's response to the pandemic. Taylor signed recall petitions for Sisolak at both the Pence and Trump rally.
Taylor brushed off worries some people have that Trump will not participate in a peaceful transition of power if he loses. He said he isn't worried about it because "for one thing, we're gonna win."
"This is a real turning point right now. Our democracy is on the line if we don't get Trump back in there and we don't get not enough Republicans in the Congress and so forth," he said. "This election's probably the most important one in our lifetime, because it's going to determine the direction that we're going in as a county."
Donnett Lewis, 48, and Rosa Hall, 60, Boulder City
Donnett Lewis, 48, would have camped out for the Pence rally if she could have. Instead, she settled on claiming the first spot in line before the sun rose.
A Boulder City resident of six years, Lewis said she used to be a part of the Tea Party, a subset of the GOP, and then was a registered nonpartisan but switched to the Republican Party in 2016 because of Trump. She thinks he is "amazing" and said he works nonstop, even while having COVID.
Lewis' friend, Rosa Hall, passed on the pre-dawn adventure and joined Lewis later in the morning to support the Trump administration. Hall said her support for the Trump comes from his "1,001 accomplishments" in his first term and, most importantly for her as a Christian, his stance on abortion.
Hall, who has lived in Boulder City for two years after living in Colorado and growing up in Spain, said news about Trump's taxes hasn't affected her stance on the president and pointed to Trump's Nobel Prize nominations as evidence of the work he's done
"I could care less about the president's private affairs," she said. "I care about what he has done for the country."