CASPER — Calling Wyoming’s Republican primary for the state’s lone U.S. House seat the most important midterm race in the nation, former President Donald Trump didn’t hold back about the “ridiculous and stupid thinking of Liz Cheney.”
A Trump rally in Casper on Saturday afternoon saw nearly 10,000 Trump supporters from around the region pack into the Ford Wyoming Center and thousands more gather outside the arena to cheer the 45th president of the United States and push for more conservative values represented in politics.
The event also was a huge boost for the campaign of Republican Harriet Hageman, who is challenging Cheney for her congressional seat. Trump has endorsed Hageman as he continues to criticize Cheney for her voting to impeach him and her involvement in the Jan. 6 Select Committee that’s investigating the 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Calling Cheney Wyoming’s “dumb RINO (Republican in name only) congresswoman” who “has gone crazy,” and the panel the “Un-Select Committee,” Trump said she has become a motivating force behind one of the “unhinged, lawless and dangerous witch hunts of all time.
Loud chants of “USA!” rumbled through the arena as Trump entered and made his way to the podium, then swelled again at other points during his address.
He also played to the crowd, recognizing Wyoming’s long and deep Republican roots. The state voted 70% for him in 2020 and is the birthplace of the term “ultra-MAGA,” referencing Trump’s famous Make America Great Again slogan.
“We won Wyoming by the largest margin in any state in the nation, red or blue,” the former president said. “This is MAGA country. This is ultra-MAGA country. Ultra-MAGA, even better.”
He also drew loud cheers and applause when he took a jab at the assembled press covering the rally.
“Why, oh why, are there so many of them?” Trump asked. “Every one of them is fake news, every one of them.”
He said the “press is so corrupt” and that there’s no such thing as free speech in American anymore. A Republican-controlled Congress would remedy that, he said.
On other national issues, Trump repeated his concerns over America’s election system. He urged a move away from alternative ways to vote, like by absentee ballot, and for elections to be decided only by paper ballots cast at one time.
And for Wyoming, he didn’t leave without a few jabs at the state’s primary regulations, which have come under fire before, that allow voters to change parties for the primary.
He also isn’t a fan of Wyoming’s Republican governor, Mark Gordon.
“Wyoming thought they were electing a conservative warrior,” Trump said. “Instead, they got a lapdog for (Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi and a lapdog from the DNC (Democratic National Committee).”
While all eyes were on the podium when Trump took the stage, for most of the nearly 10,000 who packed into the arena and thousands more outside had already been celebrating for hours.
The first who wanted to see the former president were already lined up in front of the Ford Wyoming Center as the sun rose.
By the time the doors were ready to open at 11 a.m., crowds of excited Republicans dressed from head to toe in red, white and blue and many wearing MAGA hats packed the parking lot. Many were eating at food trucks, buying gear from vendors and taking photos with one another as they prepared to go through security.
The words “brother,” “sister” and “family” were used as rallying cries as attendees described what it was like to see masses heading into the center. Others said it was an expression of love.
“It makes you feel like you’re not alone,” said Dawn Marquardt of the atmosphere in Casper.
Marquardt drove 200 miles from La Barge to bask in the feeling of community at the rally and to show her support for the candidates preparing for the state’s Republican primary. Many traveled hundreds of miles from around the region to attend.
She said it was thrilling to be at the rally not just because she is a Trump supporter, but because she is an avid believer in Hageman’s campaign. Both Trump and Hageman spoke at the crescendo of the rally as Trump pushed his endorsement of Hageman in the Aug. 16 Republican primary.
Marquardt also wants Hageman to unseat Cheney.
“I think she has not listened to what the Wyoming voters have wanted this past year,” Marquardt said of Cheney. “And so, I think that Harriet (Hageman) is going to listen to us and hopefully stand up for us, and fight for Wyoming.”
The main concern she hoped to see addressed by Hageman, an environmental attorney, is how to boost Wyoming’s economy through its minerals industries. Marquardt said the state needs to drill and mine more resources to provide more domestic energy.
Marquardt was not the only lifelong Wyoming native searching for solutions at the rally.
State Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, spoke to thousands of attendees and endorsed Hageman during a pre-rally event.
Before she took to the stage, she was just another excited Republican waiting in line with her husband. She told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle it was “amazing” to see so many patriots standing for the values of the Republican Party.
“Honestly, I can’t think of a better word for it,“ she said.
Later in the afternoon, she told the crowd that sending Cheney’s challenger to Congress is one answer Wyoming needs, and similarly minded candidates need to win other local and state offices.
Steinmetz claimed her concern is spurred by a desire from Democrats destroy the U.S. economy as inflation makes life harder by making it more costly fill up a vehicle with gasoline and to afford to put food on the table.
“Democrats are literally running breakfast, lunch and dinner,” she said to the thousands listening in the arena.
Those from out of state also are personally invested in Wyoming’s political races this summer. They expressed about what this means for the nation as the whole.
Bruce Whalen said he wants to see the Republican Party unite, because there is a struggle within America. He said many have sided with Democrats against the MAGA crowd, which he believes is 100 million strong nationally. A Trump campaign slogan has been to Make America Great Again. Whalen said Democrats don’t understand that Trump supporters are fighting for freedom.
A candidate on the Republican primary ticket for U.S. Senate in South Dakota, Whalen traveled nearly six hours with his friends from his home at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
“We’re going to stand up,” he said while waiting in line. “If we don’t, we’re going to lose America right before our very eyes and become a giant Indian reservation, just like Pine Ridge, South Dakota, is.”
Members of the group he attended the event with said they are just as concerned as Whalen.
Marguerite McPhillips said she is related to John and Samuel Adams, who signed the Declaration of Independence, and they would be turning in their graves if they witnessed what was happening in America today. Her claim of historical kinship couldn’t be confirmed before press time.
“It sickens me that we’ve allowed ourselves to become a third-world nation,” she said. “And it sickens me because they fought hard for us.”
Merchandise vendors from Michigan, Mark Gobie and Heather Zoellner, said they were also passionate about “taking back their country.”
But they said this was not their No. 1 priority in coming to the event. They travel nationwide to Trump rallies because they want to show their support by spreading love.
Gobie said the vibration and energy of the rallies drew him in, and it’s over the top.
“That’s how God is, he’s over the top, in your face,” he said. “And all these people here know that, we’re all on the same wavelength.”
Another vendor, Heather Zoellner, said she also was inspired by the love and the purpose of Trump’s rallies. She said she admires that he goes around the country to highlight real people, whether it be for good or bad reasons. She said it is important to know who the best candidates were.
“We need good guys in Congress because there’s only 2% good,” Zoellner said. “That’s a very low number.”
Before wrapping up his remarks, the former president addressed the recent school shooting in Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead. He didn’t mention Democratic efforts on gun control, but said America needs to build better-secured schools.
“Our hears grieve for the terrible loss and send our love to the families,” Trump said. “They are devastated, the whole country is devastated. Actually, the whole world is devastated.”
As Trump wound down the rally, he named a host of local and state Republicans who he said are doing good work for conservatives. Then he asked a question that drew the loudest response of the afternoon.
“Does anybody want me to run again?” he asked.