Donald Trump's campaign didn’t give his Colorado supporters much warning that he’d be visiting. But several thousand of them dropped everything to see him speak Friday in Colorado Springs.
With the major party’s national political conventions over, the general election is truly underway and both presidential candidates, Trump and Hillary Clinton, have an eye on Colorado. Trump arrived Friday morning and Clinton will be here in a few days.
Two women waiting in the seemingly endless line snaking outside the event center at University of Colorado Colorado Springs didn't want to give their names because they hold high profile positions in a well-known organization in town. But both declared themselves proud fans of Trump.
"The thought of Hillary Clinton in the White House is terrifying,” one of them said. And how she feel about Trump?"
"Trump will do an infinitely better job than Hillary Clinton," she said.
Trump supporters also said they were excited that he chose Colorado as one of the first stops of his general election campaign, especially given the fact that President Barack Obama won the state twice.
"He might not win Colorado. He might already know that. But just saying that we’re not going to give up on our Republican supporters that are in Colorado, I’m not going to give up on you, I’m going to come out there and see you. That says a lot about him as a leader," said Kevin Brown, who recently moved to Colorado from North Carolina.
Rally-goers passed several dozen protesters on their way into the venue and there were some dueling chants.
Not all of Trump’s opponents were standing with the protesters. Jack Johnson, 18, was wearing a T-shirt for Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet as he waited to get into the rally. He plans to vote for Hillary Clinton, but wanted to experience a Trump event for himself.
"There’s always an atmosphere that they say is created, but you never really get to find the atmosphere until you’re there. And you can’t say you hate something until you try it, right?" he said.
Most of those interviewed say they are frightened for the country’s future. But for Jackson, politics is still something to get enthusiastic about.
"Crazy year, crazy first election to vote in. But it’s fun, you know. It’s fun to get involved," he said.
Inside the rally, Trump’s supporters were definitely having fun -- once their candidate arrived. He spent much of his speech attacking familiar targets, including Hillary Clinton and the mainstream media. But he started his remarks angry about a much more local opponent: the local fire marshal he said was keeping too many people out of the room.
"We have thousands of beautiful, wonderful great people outside and we have in the room next door over a thousand people," Trump said. "They won’t let them in. And the reason they won’t let them in is because they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. That’s why."
Trump also claimed that Bernie Sanders "sold his soul to the devil" in deciding to support Hillary Clinton for president, and that Sanders "folded" when he abandoned his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"He wanted to go home, he wanted to go to sleep," Trump said. He then noted that Sanders' "people are angry" and praised their efforts to disrupt the Democratic National Convention.
He declared Clinton's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention "so average," "full of clichés" and false claims against him.
Trump also bragged about TV ratings that indicated that more people watched his acceptance speech that Clinton's speech. The Democratic convention, however, had more overall viewers during the four nights.
He said that he thought Chelsea Clinton did very well and noted that she's is friends with his daughter Ivanka. He joked that he wished they weren't friends "because it would be a lot easier!"
Trump took aim at some Colorado issues during his speech, including the much-delayed Veteran’s Hospital in Aurora, which is more than a billion dollars over budget.
"I’m building a hotel in Washington, and I’m under budget and ahead of schedule by one year," he said. "It's peanuts compared to $1.2 billion. That’s just a cost overrun. And that’s happening all over the country, when you build a road, when you build an airport."
Beyond the hospital Trump had little specific to say about Colorado issues at the rally; outside he waded into the controversy over local control when it comes to fracking bans -- he told 9 News reporter Brandon Rittman "if a municipality or state wants to ban fracking, I can understand that."
The candidate promised to return so often that his supporters get sick of him.
"I just want to tell you I’m going to be in Colorado a lot," he said. "Because there’s no way we shouldn’t win this state."
Trump supporters streaming out of the venue promised they would not get sick of their candidate. The speech also went over well with at least one former Bernie Sanders supporter -- exactly the kind of voter Trump has been working hard lately to win over.
"It was actually pretty good. He was a lot better than I’ve seen on TV," said Jason Korthour. He said he disagrees with Republicans on a lot of issues -- like cutting the social safety net -- but he’s 100-percent with Trump on his hatred of Hillary Clinton.
But Korthour isn’t totally sold on Trump. He’s still considering the Green Party candidate. But if Trump makes good on his promise to visit Colorado frequently, Korthour and other undecided voters may get a lot of opportunities to make up their minds.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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