The Best Place To Watch The Final Debate Was A Cowboy Bar In Nevada, I Guarantee It [PICTURES]

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Christopher Bedford Former Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation
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Las Vegas, NV — Four miles off “The Strip,” through traffic jams and dozens of roads blocked by police, in a parking lot off the side of Route 15, sits Stoney’s Rockin’ Country cowboy bar. Next to the bar, there’s a long “Great America PAC” bus, and inside, hundreds of rowdy Trump fans are ready for the final debate of 2016.

With the highway shut down for the candidates’ arrivals, it took 45 minutes to get here, and even in the parking lot, security is tight for a cowboy bar. Yellow shirts from the venue mix in with suited guys from the PAC. The suits stand in strong contrast to the jeans and boots on the night’s drinkers, and the music is loud.

Christopher Bedford/The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The girls kick off the party with a little guitar help. Christopher Bedford/The Daily Caller News Foundation.

It’s a big crowd, all ages: old, young, hot and not. There’s a mechanical bull in front of a 10-foot American-flag wall constructed with hundreds of cans of domestic beer, even if some — Blue Moon and Redd’s Appe Ale — are a little suspect. Three blondes and a brown-haired man are on stage, playing guitars and bass, banging on a drum box and singing country music. Pot Liquor Smokehouse is serving up pulled-pork and chicken wings to a crowd that chows it down under dozens of “Make America Great Again” caps and not a few cowboy hats.

A flag of beers back drops the mechanical bull. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

A flag of beers back drops the mechanical bull. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

The place looks like any big road house, with wooden walls covered in neon signs under Christmas-light ceilings.

It’s $25 for a yellow paper wrist band that says you mean business: all-you-can drink draught beers, when the only thing on tap is Pabst Blue Ribbon, American-made since 1844. The Great America PAC even make us reporters buy our own drinks, but then so did actual Donald Trump, and here no one is pushing us into cages. The crowd is friendlier than any in Boston, and the beer is easier. After a few hours of reporting from the front lines, the bartender fills me up before I’ve hit bottom. Damn fine.

David Tian Wang. Christopher Bedford/The Daily Caller News Foundation.

David Tian Wang. Christopher Bedford/The Daily Caller News Foundation.

David Tian Wang is in line for BBQ, wearing his “Chinese Americans For Trump” tee-shirt. He describes himself as a longtime “activist, protester and Republican,” and was “a Jeb Bush die-hard” when the primaries kicked off. “That was before Donald Trump,” who he says he’s supported since Day 1.

Wang, 32, says he founded the group in Los Angeles, and today, he claims 6,540 registered members in 28 states. Just this morning, he tells me, he canvassed 150 homes himself, and is busy bussing in volunteers from as far Washington state to knock on doors in Nevada. He Beams when a young woman in a backward Trump hat compliments his shirt while he waits in the BBQ-line, “Are you Chinese-American!?” “Yes,” she confirms, answering his fist-bump and asking for a shirt. “We’re going to win Nevada,” he tells me, hopefully. (RELATED: Meet the Virginia Man Who Is Getting Chinese America To Vote Trump)

The crowd at the bar. Christopher Bedford/The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The crowd at the bar. Christopher Bedford/The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The first cheers of the night come when Dorothy Woods takes the stage. Her husband, Tyrone Woods, gave his life in Benghazi, Libya. The folks sitting up front rise to their feet, cheering for minutes while a woman in the back yells “God bless you!”

Dorothy Woods. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

Dorothy Woods speaking before the debate. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

It doesn’t matter what crude remarks Donald Trump has made, Dorothy says, “That night, she [Hillary] couldn’t be bothered. She turned her back.”

“She has shown that when no one is looking, she serves herself.”

The first boos of the night come when Hillary Clinton takes the stage. It’s mostly restricted to old-fashioned howls, but a little color comes from behind the bar when a Stoney’s tender hollers, “Fuck Hillary!” He’s popular with the crowd, and over the night, dozens of pretty girls saddle up for the shots he’s pouring.

Hillary enters the arena. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

A decidedly unpopular Hillary enters the arena. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

Danny Tarkanian is in the bar too. He’s running for U.S. Congress in a 50-50 GOP-Dem district outside Las Vegas as a libertarian Republican with Rand Paul’s endorsement. Whether you’re a fan of Trump or Rand, the man behind his opponent unites the room in opposition: Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Tarkanian is betting on a big name. His father, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, led the school hosting tonight’s debate from obscurity to national fame. One bar patron refers to him as “a national hero in Nevada.”

Chris Ricenbaw, a 25-year-old Republican in a Trump hat, a Post Office shirt, and a long black beard isn’t a fan. But it’s not about politics: “I kicked him out of my office at Wells Fargo,” he tells me. Tarkanian’s sister was trying to open a fund, he says, when Danny “tried to pull his name card.”

A crew at the bar. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

Geoffrey, Chris, Courtney, Colton and Tyler at the bar. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

“I’m not from Las Vegas!” Says Ricenbaw, who came to Nevada from Arizona, and Arizona from Texas. So his money was no good here. Ricenbaw is out tonight because he supports Trump. If Trump was pro-Harambe, he yells at the crowd, the election would be over tomorrow. But in case that doesn’t happen Tuesday night, he lets the rafters know Bill Clinton is a rapist.

Tarkanian, good-naturedly working the crowd, says he doesn’t remember the Wells Fargo spat.

Ricenbaw’s buddy Tyler Farina is 22, and moved here from Los Angeles 12 years ago. He considers himself a local now, but he wears his hometown on his shirt and hat. Today, he works construction, where people are too split to talk politics on the job.

“We’ve been fucked the past however-many years,” he volunteers. “We need a businessman in office. Politicians haven’t helped.” Donald Trump may not have the most experience in D.C., he tells me, but turning his father’s loan into 2016’s business empire took “work ethic, teamwork and dedication. It’s what we need.”

A sign above the bar. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

A sign above the bar. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

Their crowd, among the rowdiest in the room, includes Colton, a tall glass of water who doesn’t want to give his last name. At 27, he’s an officer in the Air Force, stationed in Las Vegas. The officers are split, but he’s here to support The Donald. (POLL: Enlisted Men Don’t Give A Hoot About Donald’s ‘Foul’ Mouth)

Geoffrey Sarzynsky, 27, ran around the bar to join in, pulling along Courtney Herrera, 31, who is popular with just about everyone. Herrera is a Trump fan, while Sarzynsky doesn’t much care for either candidate. He sprays some OJ from the soda gun onto the top of my beer and has me guess what it is. It’s the first brass monkey I’ve had since college, and it’s delicious. “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade is walking by with a cameraman. He’s pretty popular with the residents of the barroom.

As the boors, jeers and cheers rage throughout an evening covering guns, abortion, Syria and Russia, a high point might be when Fox News moderator Chris Wallace turned to the crowd, demanding better behavior. Mid-Trump-cheer, it looked like he was scolding Stoney’s rockin’ revelers, and everyone seemed generally pleased with themselves.

Interested viewers. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

Interested viewers. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

Meanwhile, a fancy-suited guy is lurking over my shoulder, trying to read my notes. Deciding they’re passable or, more likely, simply illegible, he leans over the bar, gesturing with a shiny ring and ordering a Red Bull. He asks Sarzynsky if he “takes Apple cash.” Nope. “Got change for a Benjie?” he follows up, breathing Red Bull in my face. I didn’t want to talk to him, so I didn’t ask if he’s here for Trump. Then, everyone is here for Trump.

Except for the press. And a few locals who figured the best place to watch the final debate was a cowboy bar in Nevada.

Locals like Jordan King, 26, who looks like she hopped out of a “Scooby-Doo” themed country music video, with brown pig tails framing her yellow sweater and cowgirl boots. Originally from Southern California, she lives in Las Vegas now, and while she says she hasn’t done all her research yet, she’s definitely leaning Clinton. “Trump isn’t sensitive to women or minorities,” she ventures. “We’re American. America is diverse.”

She knew there’d be a lot of Trump supporters here tonight, and thought it would be a fun place to watch. She had a blast.

Mariah “like the singer” Erin, King’s punk-rock buddy in fishnets and Converse low-tops, is undecided. Twenty-five years old and from Minnesota, she followed family to Las Vegas and even after the final debate, is thoroughly undecided on who to vote for, or if she’ll vote at all. But she had fun at Stoney’s.

After the debate, as a country singer takes the stage and the participants get loaded in anticipation of the late-night Trump celebrities they’ve heard are inbound, Ricenbaw is mighty pleased with himself. He found Tarkanian and, he tells the bar, gave him a curse-colored piece of his mind.

Danny Tarkanian after the debate. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.

Danny Tarkanian after the debate. Christopher Bedford/TheDCNF.are inbound, Ricenbaw is mighty pleased with himself. He found Tarkanian and, he tells the bar, gave him a curse-colored piece of his mind.

Out front of the bar, Tarkanian is mobbed by fans. “You’re a legend,” one old man tells him.

“This was Trump’s best night ever,” the candidate tells me. “He had Hillary frustrated, angry … I think he listened this time. He held his tongue and listened.”

“It was like a political sport event,” the former San Antonio Spurs draft-pick says.

Inside, the band is playing “Folsom Prison Blues,” the girls are dancing, and the guys are getting rowdy. It’s just 8:19 in Las Vegas. The plane doesn’t leave for a full 11 hours. We’ll need it.

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