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So that happened.
The Trump rally extravaganza has come and gone. Downtown Albuquerque, where President Donald Trump purportedly stayed overnight in a hotel he does not own, is back open for business. Schools have resumed classes. Freeways and roadways are again jammed with regular motorists. Signs and T-shirts and the ubiquitous red MAGA hats have been put away, for the most part. Life as we know it has resumed.
And Rio Rancho, the site of Monday’s rally, is back to being Rio Rancho and not Albuquerque, as Trump mistakenly called it.
All in all, things went well, yes? No tear gas, no violence? Not like his last visit as a presidential candidate in 2016 to Albuquerque (not Rio Rancho).
Protesters largely stayed away from the arena after an eleventh-hour decision by some organizers deemed the venue and the heated climate too dangerous. About 200 braved the arena location anyway and did just fine. Hundreds more attended a rally miles away at Tiguex Park in Albuquerque. Dozens lined the interstates, some bearing signs with slogans like “Get him outta here” and “No one loves Trump,” interspersed with supporters waving U.S. flags.
And then there was that one banner slung across an overpass on the long, lonely stretch of Paseo Del Volcan near the arena that simply said: “Impeach.”
But Trump never saw it. His motorcade took a different route to the arena.
Not that he would have been expected to mention any exhibition of public disaffection with him. This was a love fest, he cooed.
“All the way in, we had people and they were waving, and I didn’t see any negative hand gesture,” he gushed at the rally.
He was here to woo New Mexico, to wow enough Hispanics to assure a reelection win come 2020, despite losing our state by 8 points in 2016 and earning a 38% approval rating of likely voters in New Mexico last time anyone checked.
(Among Hispanic voters, according to the September 2018 Journal poll, just 28% approved.)
Supporters, some of whom waited for more than 13 hours for the chance to hear Trump speak, were surely not disappointed.
For 95 minutes – the second-longest speech of his presidency, according to Factba.se – he rambled on through many of his greatest hits: the dishonest media, the demolishing Democrats, the Russian witch hunt, the Pocahontas slur, the wall, the light bulb, the great things he has done better than anyone else.
The teleprompter became more of a reminder to wander back to prepared statements rather than wade off into disparate streams of consciousness. Facts were unimportant.
Those in the crowd didn’t mind. They cheered. They chanted. At one point, they catcalled after Trump remarked how, after three years since his last visit, New Mexicans are better-looking.
And wealthier, he said. Did you know?
An estimated 8,700 filled the arena, and 1,500 more watched the speech on a jumbo screen outside. To put that into perspective, that’s a little less that the crowd that attended last Saturday’s New Mexico United soccer match at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque.
Whether Trump’s visit moved minds either way remains to be seen. As Trump likes to say, we’ll see what happens.
Which is to say, we may have more rallies to contend with in the next 14 months. For some, that’s welcome news. For others, more disruption and disdain.
As Monday’s rally ended, the skies opened up, sending supporters and protesters alike racing to their vehicles in the deluge.
It was as if nature were washing away the tension and animosity between them, at least for a night.
If New Mexico really is up for grabs, as Trump’s campaign crew believes, we’re going to need more rain.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.