Boos, groans and even a stray expletive or two filled the air as about 40 members of the Nevada Republican Party gathered Thursday in a central Las Vegas Valley restaurant to watch the second wave of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls clash on the debate stage.
It was the second of two such watch parties held by the state GOP in a private area of Rhythm Kitchen. And although the debate stage in Miami belonged to the Democrats, various Republican memorabilia — including Make America Great Again hats in both red and pink varieties — were a clear indication of a tough crowd for the hopefuls.
The event was advertised as a way to poke fun at the candidates as a group, and none of the 10 candidates was spared from a vocal ire nearly 3,000 miles away.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California was called a liar as she relayed that her neighbors’ parents would not allow their children to play with her because she is black.
Boos rained on New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand after she proposed providing asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border with attorneys. “Who’s going to pay for that?” one audience member yelled.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders received the brunt of the responses — at one point being called “a murderer” as he discussed abortion and Roe v. Wade.
“I thought it was going to be a comedy show, and luckily, they did not disappoint,” Carlos Pena Bracamontes said. “They’re clowns, and I was happy to heckle them like clowns.”
Apparent comedy aside, Pena Bracamontes offered some praise for South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whom he called “very eloquent.”
Kevin Toomey said the entire field was too negative and too focused on what they think is wrong. He offered backhanded praise of California Rep. Eric Swalwell, whom he said “had kind of a sensible approach that would probably lead to socialism.”
Michael McDonald, the chairman of the state GOP and a close ally of President Donald Trump, said it was clear after two nights of debate that no candidate was in Trump’s class.
“I don’t believe they have the ability or the knowledge to lead this country, and that includes (former) Vice President Joe Biden,” McDonald said.
The party chairman and former Las Vegas city councilman said Biden and Sanders had bad nights but praised Harris, calling her “the clear winner tonight.”
“I think she did a wonderful job,” McDonald said. “She attacked the vice president — caught him flat-footed — and he didn’t have answers for when she attacked him.”
But no one on either stage, McDonald reiterated, was a match for Trump.
“He cares about America first,” McDonald said. “He cares about the American people, regardless of how they want to spin it.”