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Donald Trump characteristically skirted policy specifics at his stump speech at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Lowry on Friday evening. The Republican presidential nominee did, however, promise “winning, so much winning you’ll be sick of winning,” as well as to bolster support for the military and police, repeal the Affordable Care Act and Common Core, and improve international trade.
Much of Trump’s speech focused on his strong-arm stance on immigration—a curious strategy, given that Colorado, a crucial swing state, is home to the eighth largest Latino electorate in the nation. (Fifteen percent of Colorado’s eligible voters identify as Hispanic).
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In addition to saying he’d build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico (that Mexico “will pay for”) as high as the ceiling of the converted Air Force hangar in which he was speaking, Trump spoke about the Syrian refugee crisis. He asserted that these migrants are dangerous and entering the country without being vetted, eliciting uproarious cheers from the mostly white crowd of roughly 6,000 attendees.
Of course this claim isn’t accurate; refugees to the U.S. undergo extensive screening, and the small number of individuals coming from Syria—less than 2,000 as of May 2016, short of President Barack Obama’s promise of 10,000—are subjected to additional security measure, according to a TIME Magazine analysis.
Trump later performed his “Snake” allegory, a theatrical reading of lyrics to the 1969 song “The Snake” by soul singer Al Wilson, painting a grisly image of immigrants. (Trump has performed this bit multiple times during his campaign, including in Iowa earlier this year.)
“Remember, this pertains to people coming across our border,” Trump said in a long-winded introduction to the reading that detoured into his success in the Republican primaries. “This pertains to people coming in from Syria that we have no idea who they are. Remember, they cut the heads off people. They drown people in steel cages by the thousands.”
The crowd cheered as Trump shouted the fable-like reading, which tells of a “tender-hearted” woman who takes in and nourishes a sick snake, only to be bitten. The woman begs of the snake, why would it kill her after she saved its life? “‘Oh shut up, silly woman,’ said the reptile with a grin,” Trump cried. “‘You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in!’”
(Read our July 2016 feature, “The Truth About Muslim Immigration In Colorado”)
Trump’s stance on Syrian immigration is in stark contrast to Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, who made headlines last November when he pledged to accept refugees from the war-torn country. A Bloomberg Politics poll conducted in November 2015 found that 53 percent of Americans (including 69 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Democrats) oppose accepting Syrian refugees.
Outside the rally, a crowd of protesters gathered opposite of the museum property. With signs raised above their heads flashing slogans like “I’m with her, he’s with Putin,” “con man,” and “Where are his tax returns?” the protesters got into occasional shouting duologues with the more vocal rally-goers filing past them, but no arrests were made.
Whether or not Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric is resonating with Colorado voters, we can expect to hear more of it soon. The candidate asserted the importance of winning Colorado on November 8, and promised to return often between now and Election Day. The candidate also hosted a rally in Colorado Springs on Friday, where he got stuck in an elevator, and then criticized the fire marshal for limiting the size of the crowd.
Over the weekend, Hillary Clinton announced a campaign stop along with vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine in Commerce City on Wednesday. They’re expected to discuss job creation and the economy. Polls show that Clinton leads Trump in Colorado, and the Democratic candidate has pulled campaign advertisements from the area to focus on other swing states. President Barack Obama carried Colorado in both 2008 and 2012, reflecting a shift in the state’s overall leanings, from red to blue.