Donna Oftedahl of Bigfork voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964. The Republican candidate for president lost in a landslide to incumbent Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat.
Oftedahl voted for President Donald Trump two years ago.
“I think he’s the best president we’ve had in my lifetime,” she said.
Oftedahl was one of the early arrivals Monday morning for a Republican rally in half of a hangar at Glacier Park International Airport near Kalispell.
The event’s star attraction was Vice President Mike Pence, who hit the stage nearly an hour late in the company of Republican senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Cory Gardner of Colorado.
The rally’s primary focus was cheerleading the candidacy of Matt Rosendale in his attempt to oust incumbent Democrat Jon Tester, a race described as a dead heat in at least one poll on the eve of the election.
People who attended were also implored to help re-elect Republican Greg Gianforte to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Gianforte is facing a challenge from Democrat Kathleen Williams.
One crowd count estimated more than 1,000 people attended Monday’s rally.
The speakers, including U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., kept imploring attendees to vote. Based on a show of hands, the majority of people in the crowd had already voted absentee.
Thus, there was a lot of preaching to the choir about tax cuts, illegal immigration, gun rights, conservative judges, reducing governmental red tape, low unemployment and the like.
“We are getting America back on track and the American dream is back,” Gianforte said.
The event often sounded just as much like a pep rally for Trump, who had been in Montana for the fourth time Saturday, stumping for Rosendale and Gianforte.
Judy Hogan said she attended Trump’s rally in Great Falls and felt boosted by being in the midst of thousands of like-minded Americans. She, like many others Monday, both on stage and off, expressed distaste for how Brett Kavanaugh was treated during hearings focused on his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I don’t see how anyone who watched the Kavanaugh hearings could vote Democrat,” Hogan said.
As for Trump’s performance, she said, “He’s doing fabulous. It’s nice to have someone who makes promises and keeps them.”
Many people sported red caps that read “Make America Great Again.”
There were “build the wall” chants and boos when prominent Democrats were referenced.
Pence took the stage around 12:24 p.m. and spoke for about 20 minutes.
He quickly referenced Trump.
“It’s been two years of action,” Pence said. “It’s been two years of results...It’s been two years of promises made and promises kept.”
He said his “friend in the Oval Office” is making America prosperous and secure again.
All the speakers slammed Tester. As did many of the attendees, including Jack Paulson of Bigfork, who said, “I wouldn’t vote for that skunk for anything.”
There was recognition in the crowd that the race between Rosendale and Tester is tight.
“I hope Rosendale wins,” said Luke Baer of Kalispell. “I think it’s going to be close, really close.”
Dennis Kossak of Kalispell weighed in about the potential outcome.
“I have no clue,” he said. “It’s a total toss-up.”
Ronald Johnson, 69, of Coram, sounded more confident. Johnson, a Vietnam Veteran, arrived at the event around 4:30 a.m. to ensure he’d get a good spot near the stage. And he did.
“I’m a firm believer that Rosendale is going to persevere and be the next guy,” said Johnson, who wore a “Hillary for Prison” button.
Pence ended the rally by urging the crowd to try to transcend the nation’s divisive political climate and to pray for America.
Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 758-4407.