At Tuesday's Trump rally, two coat-clad figures stand at the foreground with their backs to the camera. One has a Make America Great Again beanie. In front of them, and in the background of the photo, there is a crowd of people.
Thousands of Nebraskans and Iowans attended Tuesday night’s Trump rally in sub-freezing temperatures. It was Trump’s final stop in Nebraska before election day. Photo by Miriam Kluck/Nebraska News Service.

Large crowds of Trump supporters gathered by 11 a.m., nine hours before Air Force One touched down in Eppley Airfield. Neither COVID-19 nor the biting cold of 27 degrees with wind chill deterred Nebraskans from President Donald Trump’s rally in Omaha on Oct. 27.

The night’s rally, which ended with seven hospitalizations from the cold, provided a platform to several Nebraska and Iowa politicians before the president’s remarks. Trump’s 45-minute speech hit on many of his campaign’s core themes: jobs, suburbs, and Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s alleged corruption.

“But Biden’s extreme agenda includes a radical vision to destroy suburbs across our nation,” Trump said. “How are your suburbs doing? They good? They won’t be good for long.” 

At one point, while Trump talked about what he called Biden’s crooked business practices, the crowd erupted in a chant of “lock him up.”

Polls indicate that Biden leads Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, which consists almost entirely of Omaha, by a steady margin. Trump’s campaign stop at Eppley was a bid to shore up support in the district. NE-2 hasn’t given an electoral vote to a Democrat since Barack Obama’s first run in 2008 and not since 1964 before that.

The event, which Trump claimed drew in 29,000 people, echoed the atmosphere of a state fair with thousands mulling around the tents full of Trump memorabilia and food trucks serving funnel cakes. But the mass-gathering came after weeks of surging COVID-19 cases across the state. 

Rep. Don Bacon’s challenger in NE-2’s neck and neck congressional race, Kara Eastman, criticized Bacon and Trump for speaking at the event.

“Woke up this morning to see that members of our community under the care of Donald Trump and Don Bacon were put in harm’s way,” Eastman said on Twitter. “Political rallies should not endanger people’s lives.”

While the speech primarily focused on Trump’s broader and national campaign themes, Trump included some Nebraska-specific comments centering around farmers.

“When China targeted our farmers, I delivered $28 billion to our incredible farmers here in Nebraska and Iowa and all across the country. Nobody else is going to do that,” he said. “In fact, some people say our farmers do better now than they did when they actually had to farm.”

Here, Trump referenced the trade war with China, which dropped grain prices and especially hurt Midwestern farmers. Trump delivered additional payments to farmers in the past several months from China’s participation in the new Phase One deal, but Democrats point to a Government Accountability Office report that shows Southern agricultural producers took in larger payments than Midwestern farmers.

Rally participants included residents from Omaha to Grand Island and beyond. Gloria Westerman of North Bend wore a MAGA mask and helped hand out free bottles of water.

“Man, Trump has done so much,” Westerman said. “He’s been beat down harder than any president has ever been, and he still wants to stand for America.”

Lincoln resident Charles Burchess, who said he supports Trump for “valuing America first,” said Trump isn’t without his faults.

“Sometimes I wish he wouldn’t tweet as much,” Burchess said. “Some of the things he says aren’t very presidential.”

Trump’s rally also drew the “Vote Blue Protest,” organized by BLM Omaha, which especially targeted what protesters considered to be Trump’s racism and incompetence. 

“No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA,” protesters chanted.

Now less than a week from the election, Trump trails in national polls, but he didn’t show any signs of angst or weakness at the rally.

“Seven days from now, we’re going to win Nebraska,” Trump said. “You know we have to win both Nebraskas, you’re two, you’re cut.”

Senior journalism major at UNL