Mike Pence GOP Rally

A woman takes a photo as Vice President Mike Pence delivers a speech at a Montana GOP rally Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 at the Big Yellow Barn in Belgrade.

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BELGRADE — One by one, cars drove north on Springhill Road. They parked along the side single file. Trucks and motorcycles joined them.

Flags with “Trump 2020” on them flew from cars. Other vehicles sported decals that showed support for law enforcement. By 1:50 p.m. Monday, the line stretched seven-tenths of a mile and rally-goers walked to the Big Yellow Barn in Belgrade.

That’s where Vice President Mike Pence spoke a little more than an hour later in front of hundreds at a campaign stop to support Republican Sen. Steve Daines’ reelection bid and other Republican candidates running for office. Daines was joined by Rep. Greg Gianforte, who is running for governor, state auditor Matt Rosendale, running for the state’s lone House of Representatives seat and other down-ballot candidates.

The attendees each brought their own reasons for attending, but were unified as they wore “Keep America Great” ball caps and cheered throughout the afternoon. Unlike other recent local rallies, there were no protesters.

As soon as Karyn Carpenter, 36, found out about the rally, she thought to herself, “I have to go to this.” She attended President Donald Trump’s rally at the airport two years ago, too.

“It’s nice to be around so many like-minded people,” Carpenter said. “So coming to events like this is really inspiring.”

Carpenter described Montana as “a land of opportunity” and believes Daines, Gianforte and Rosendale “will keep that rolling.”

Josh Van Bramer, a 19-year-old student at Montana State University, spent all day in class thinking about seeing Pence in the afternoon. He said he attended because he wanted to “get some more information before November comes along” and “see what everybody’s all about.” He’s looked forward to voting in a presidential election for the first time since his family often discusses politics.

Van Bramer said he didn’t hear much about the rally on campus but his mother told him Pence would be visiting and that led him to the event. He feels “pretty solid” he’ll vote for Trump.

He senses students at MSU are split, giving the example of how two people who live in his house are likely to vote for more conservative candidates while two others are likely to support more liberal candidates.

“It’s just political values,” Van Bramer said. “It’s not like it makes them bad people if they think otherwise.”

Richard Downey, 57, and Dawn Downey, 56, were less interested in typical political back-and-forth but preferred to hear about policy ideas. They pointed out how the coronavirus pandemic has not only led to deaths but also affected businesses and mental health.

They said they track politicians’ voting records and have already pretty much made up their minds that they’ll vote Republican.

“The political ads we see locally on TV, so many of them are just mud-slinging,” Richard Downey said. “... I’m tired of that. I just want more facts, plans and execution.”

While Pence touted the work Trump has done since being elected in 2016, Daines and Rosendale repeatedly mentioned Democratic candidates, warning the crowd of their concerns if they are elected.

“The Constitution is not being protected. It’s being attacked,” Dawn Downey said. “We’re concerned with that.”

Kelley Klostermeyer, 46, showed up to the rally with her daughter, Rhyan. She called seeing the vice president a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She also wanted to show support for the Republican candidates.

In 2016, Klostermeyer didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton, instead opting for a Libertarian candidate. But now she plans to vote for Trump because she feels he followed through on what he discussed prior to being elected.

She referred to Trump’s record supporting pro-life policies. A couple hours later, Pence did the same.

“(Trump) has done more for conservative Christians than we could ask for,” Klostermeyer said. “He definitely has my vote. I love Pence as just a man of faith.”

Though Klostermeyer said she doesn’t agree with Trump all the time, she generally likes his policies.

When Daines spoke, the crowd yelled out, “Six more years.” Then when Pence spoke, the chant shifted to, “Four more years.”

Earlier in the day, Pence was in Wisconsin as he criss-crossed the country during the election season. He closed by saying “Make America great again, again.”

He walked off the stage to “Only In America” by Brooks and Dunn. Supporters took yard signs for candidates as they walked back to their cars.

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Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

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