RENO, Nevada — Donald Trump supporters cheered Mike Pence Wednesday at a campaign rally in Nevada following the first vice presidential debate. But despite Pence's oratorial success where Trump was deemed a loser, supporters said they'd stick with Trump over the Indiana governor.
Pence was widely perceived to have been the victor in Tuesday's sparring match, and Trump went so far as to claim credit for the win:
Attendees of the rally were accordingly unanimous in their support for Pence's performance in the debate. "On a scale of one to 100, Pence got I'd say about an 85, as high as a 90," said Louis Entrekin of the debate. "The other guy, he just kept regurgitating himself. He got a five."
Compared to Democratic rival Tim Kaine — who Trump supporters said repeatedly interrupted their candidate — Pence came off as "dignified, honest and appealing," according to Gordon, who drove from Sacramento to Reno for the rally. "You could put him in the first chair," he said.
But, while Trump has lagged in the polls following his first debate with Hillary Clinton, his supporters said they wouldn't want to see the two switch places.
"I don't ever see Trump being number two," said Beverly Shimizu Krisch, a Reno resident and 71-year-old daughter of Chinese and Japanese immigrants.
Another Reno resident, a 70-year-old contractor named Bob, said while Pence "did a great job" and "kept his cool," he doesn't inspire the same feeling that Trump does. "Pence has experience in Congress. He's done a good job for his state," Bob said. "But Trump is as if I was going to run for president."
Like Trump, Bob said he'd both made and lost a lot of money in the contracting business, and felt he had "a lot in common" with the candidate.
In fact, supporters said that what's most compelling about Trump is that he doesn't sound like a polished, professional politician. "I take Trump as what he is — a hardcore, hard-driving business man," said Entrekin. "He don't know any other way."
Chris Vaughn, a Reno resident who initially supported Ben Carson, echoed that sentiment. "I don't care if the language is flowery as everyone would like. People are pissed off at career politicians and 'looking presidential'," she said. "I think it's more about acting presidential than looking and sounding like one."
Many supporters felt that the Trump-Pence ticket works best with Trump as the charismatic persona leading the way, and Pence as the more experienced legislator.
David, who attended the rally along with his wife Julie, said Pence's "experience is foundational for providing the other half. He completes Trump. It's like marriage."
Scott from Sacramento put it more simply: "Trump's the driver. He can initiate, and Pence can do his legwork."
But just because Trump's supporters prefer him in the driver's seat doesn't mean they don't think he could learn a thing or two from Pence, especially with the next debate coming up on Sunday. "I think [Trump] should have started a little earlier in being a bit more presidential," Gordon from Sacramento said.
Julia and Cherie, two sisters from Reno who attened Trump's rally together, both like Trump precisely because he's not a seasoned politician. But Cherie said would like him to lay off the "midnight, early morning tweets." And Julia agreed.
"On the Sunday debate, I want him to look at her and say, I'm here to talk about the problems of the country," she said. "But that's not his personality I guess."
Ultimately, there's something of a conflict between what Trump's supporters like about him — namely, that he's not a politician — and what they think he needs to do to win the election. Michael and Jan, enthusiastic and appropriately dressed Trump supporters from Sacramento, wrestled with this inherent contradiction and how it will come into play during the debate.
"I want him to be Pence-y," said Michael. "He shoots from the hip too much. He's not a politician."
"That's what people want," Jan countered. "They're tired of the bullshit and lies and backstabbing."
Michael agreed, but said if they want to win, Trump fans "want to get voters from the undecideds and independents and ex-Democrats."
Jan, nodding, assented. "Yes," she said. "He needs to keep his cool."