LAS VEGAS and ALBUQUERQUE — Nine days before Election Day, Donald Trump’s supporters had a message for him: Keep being Trump, but please don’t screw up this opportunity.
BuzzFeed News attended two rallies Trump held Sunday: one in Las Vegas at the Venetian hotel, and another that filled an aviation hangar in New Mexico, right outside the Albuquerque airport.
His backers were as invigorated as ever, especially in light of the renewed email headlines plaguing Hillary Clinton. “Keep doing what you’re doing,” supporters said they would advise their candidate, who gleefully hammered Clinton all weekend over the email scandal.
But many also said they hope Trump, who is known for his off-the-cuff remarks, keeps his cool and stays on the email script in the few remaining days until Nov. 8.
“Don’t tweet nothing for the next 10 days,” Chad Towe said he would advise the candidate. Towe had driven into Las Vegas from Sacramento earlier this week to volunteer at Trump’s rally.
Hope Villegas, a 43-year-old who lives in Albuquerque, attended the rally there wearing a shirt that said “Deplorable Me,” which featured a Minion-like character with Trump’s hair. She said Trump should “just leave everything alone.”
“If they come out with some hard hits, because they’re going to, just don’t talk about it,” she said. “But that’s not his nature. He gets hit, he hits back.”
Many supporters interviewed by BuzzFeed News said their main guidance to Trump would be to remain on brand as the election draws nearer. But those people also said he must focus on remaining on message so as to not alienate voters last-minute.
Norman Beerhorst, a racecar engineer who happened to be in town from Indiana for the Las Vegas rally, told BuzzFeed if he could give Trump any advice, it would be to “think about his remarks before he says them.” Like what? The “guy talk,” he said, referring to the video that surfaced earlier this month, in which Trump said he can kiss women without consent and “grab them by the pussy” because “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”
Beerhorst said he “knows a lot of women who were voting for Trump are hesitant now.”
In Albuquerque, Ben Mcelyea, who is retired from the military, echoed a similar sentiment.
“Don’t talk about any scandal stuff. Don’t talk about women. Don’t talk about Anthony Weiner. Just talk about the issues,” Mcelyea said. “Anything can come up. I wouldn’t change anything. You’re in your last week.”
“Stay on topic,” said Liz Brown, a 60-year-old from Alamogordo, New Mexico, at the Albuquerque rally. “Talk about Hillary a lot.”
“Keep calm,” said Sunny Rush, 41, from Rio Rancho, New Mexico. “Be persistent with closed borders, vetting, and background checks.”
When Trump last visited Albuquerque in May, the rally became violent as protesters and police clashed. Demonstrators threw rocks and bottles at police officers, and burned shirts. This time, while Trump supporters waited in line, organizers told them not to touch any protesters, and to alert law enforcement if they spotted anyone who clearly wasn’t there to support Trump.
Later, protesters blew siren horns outside the gate, and police formed a barrier around the hangar entrance.
Further down the street, a small scuffle broke out.
There were also some testy moments at the rally in Las Vegas. Matt Fox, who attended the rally but is from Palm Springs, California, shouted slurs at cameras.
Fox told BuzzFeed News Trump should “keep toeing the line that Hillary’s a criminal.”
As for Trump’s messaging over the next week and a half, Mike Henneborn, who works in construction and lives in the outskirts of Albuquerque, said he thinks Trump has improved at “not flying off the handle.”
“When he first started, he used to get a little excited and go off script,” Henneborn said. “He’s done really good at wrangling that in and keeping control of himself.”
Priya Anand reported from Albuquerque. Ellen Cushing reported from Las Vegas.
Donald Trump held three rallies on Sunday, two of which BuzzFeed News reporters attended. A previous version of this post incorrectly stated he held two rallies.