President Donald Trump kicked off his re-election campaign Tuesday night in Florida as Republicans across the nation — including those at GOP-sanctioned watch parties in Colorado — cheered him on.
When Trump mentioned Hillary Clinton at his Florida rally, a sanctuary full of his patriots in Lakewood chanted in unison with the audience in Orlando: "Lock her up, lock her up."
When he skewered the "fake news media," the crowd at Faith Baptist Church in Jefferson County booed and cackled, and there was the sporadic outbreak of "USA, USA, USA."
Colorado Republicans talked Tuesday evening about how to keep him in the White House and help out other Republicans like 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 who is part of the Trump Victory Campaign for Jefferson County, read off a list of the president's accomplishments on jobs, trade and foreign affairs.
"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,'" Imer told the crowd of about 150 at the church.
"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' ... compared to George Washington and those other presidents, but make sure you hit on [that] the president is not that bad, because that's how we get across to those independent voters and the swing voters in this state."
Across town at another watch party, at the Tavern Platt Park in Denver County, GOP Chair Kristina Cook welcomed more than 100 Trump supporters, many clad in red T-shirts and the campaign’s signature "Make America Great Again" hats.
“What we are building is the largest ground game that this country has ever seen, and it will be historical,” Cook said minutes before turning the sound up on more than a dozen large-screen TVs that covered nearly every available wall space.
Once Trump began speaking, the crowd turned its collective attention to the president, letting out whoops and applause at Trump’s signature lines.
“Drain the swamp,” some chanted along with the on-screen crowd after Trump claimed his administration has been cleaning up Washington, D.C.
When Trump unveiled “Keep America Great” as a possible theme for his 2020 campaign, enthusiastic supporters in Denver thrust their arms in the air and cheered.
Regina Thomson said she’s ready to start campaigning 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.
Thomson isn't sure whether Trump can carry Colorado next year but added that she’s confident she can turn out voters disappointed with the Democrats after the party effectively took over the state in last year’s election.
The Colorado Republican Party organized "MAGA meet-ups" Tuesday evening in a handful of counties, including Denver, Boulder, Adams, El Paso and Larimer.
A swing state Trump lost in 2016, Colorado represents a higher political mountains to climb in his bid for a second term.
There's the baggage of multiple investigations, including the lingering question of whether Democrats will seek an impeachment inquiry. Then there's his controversial maneuvers on immigration enforcement and tariffs that are taking a bite out of the electorate 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 chair Morgan Carroll said in a statement Tuesday, shortly before Trump's speech.
"We can expect more of the same: hyperbole, corruption, chaos and division. Whether it’s ripping away healthcare from people with preexisting conditions, giving handouts to his wealthy friends, or waging reckless trade wars that hurt farmers, Donald Trump can’t lie away his record.
“Colorado has even more reason to reject Trump than the first time. Trump's track record has proven every day that he is incapable of leading this great nation. Coloradans see through his empty grand-standing, his toxic rhetoric, and reckless approach with peoples’ lives and liberties.”
Colorado GOP Chairman Ken Buck issued a statement Tuesday evening that took a dig at former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential contender, calling their time in office "eight years of stagnation."
"Our nation’s economy was dragging, health care costs were skyrocketing, our immigration system was crumbling, and the rule of law was not respected," Buck said in the statement. "Thanks to President Trump, we are finally turning our country around. Colorado Republicans are proud to stand with the president in 2020."
In the conservative stronghold of El Paso County on Tuesday night, about 75 people crammed into a single room to watch the rally, as the air conditioning struggled to keep pace with the Trump fever.
Tamra Farah, president of the county Republican Party, said such local GOP events had been so crowded that she was getting estimates from contractors on knocking down walls to create more room.
The party’s enthusiasm is certainly at an all time high, Farah said, “and we will go higher.”
As with other watch parties Tuesday night, the El Paso County crowd intermittently chanted with the Orlando crowd on television: “Drain the swamp.”
“Build the wall.”
“Lock her up.”
Despite the enthusiasm, state Republican Party intern Mason Luke noted that voter turnout in El Paso County isn't great, and local GOP activists must contact as many potential voters as possible, furthering the party’s grassroots tactics.
“We need to reach out to everyone we know,” Luke said.
Indeed, the road to victory in Colorado leads through El Paso County, former secretary of state and current Colorado Springs City Councilman Wayne Williams told the crowd.
“Working together, we can make it happen,” Williams said. “We’ve done that for candidate after candidate, and with your help, we can do it again.”
Trump was a frequent guest of the Centennial State in the latter weeks of the campaign in 2016. At the Western Conservative Summit in Denver that July, he said on stage he would visit Colorado so much that the state would get tired of him.
Trump lost to Democrat Hillary Clinton in Colorado by nearly 5 percentage points, including losing by a 55-point margin in Denver County, 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 re-election in 2004.
Conservative enclaves sided with Trump, who won El Paso and Weld counties by 22 percentage points each. He won Pueblo County in 2016 by half a percentage point; he was the the first Republican presidential candidate to win Pueblo 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 that Pueblo continued to lose jobs while the rest of the state was adding workforce at a fevered pitch.
Democrats and other anti-Trump forces are poised to go after the president on his attempts to rollback President Obama's healthcare programs under the Affordable Care Act.
A Colorado branch of a coalition called Protect Our Care issued a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“Trump’s rally tonight is an insult to the millions of Coloradans who are fed up with his relentless attacks on their health care," stated Colorado spokesman Tyler Chafee. "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.
"Few states stand to lose more at the hands of Trump’s war on America’s health care than Colorado, and 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 in a statement Tuesday that Trump had failed on his promises for "better health care, lower drug prices, massive wage increases and tax cuts for the working class."
Perez continued, "He vowed to close tax loopholes for Wall Street and stop companies from closing factories and moving jobs overseas. He even said that he’d be the kind of president who wouldn’t take vacations or play golf.
"But on issue after issue, he broke his promises."