BISMARCK — Joe Biden appears to have won the presidential election, but in deeply conservative North Dakota, Donald Trump reigns supreme.
About 300 unwavering Trump supporters and many of the state's top elected Republicans held a rally on the grounds of the North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck on Saturday, Nov. 7.
As country music blared over a loudspeaker, waves of attendees arrived with signs reading "only legal votes count" and "give me Trump or give me death." Rally goers, many of them wearing Trump shirts and hats, chanted "four more years" and "stop the steal" in reference to the president's unsupported claim that Democrats rigged the election.
The Trump devotees that showed out in Bismarck on Saturday make up just a small piece of the 65% of North Dakota voters who propelled the Republican incumbent to a landslide victory in North Dakota.
The crowd seemed unfazed by reports published just minutes before the rally began that Democratic former Vice President Biden had secured the necessary electoral votes to win the presidency and defeat Trump.
Charles Tuttle, who ran unsuccessfully earlier this year for state superintendent, said he hadn't seen any of the news reported by mainstream outlets in the wake of election night. Tuttle said, without evidence, that Trump had been robbed of reelection through a Democratic conspiracy to change ballots cast for Trump into Biden votes.
Minot developer Bob Hale said the New York Times and other media outlets called the election for Biden because they favor his political leanings, adding that reports of a Biden win are "premature at best." He said it's impossible to know who really won the election until recounts in tight swing states, like Wisconsin and Georgia, have been completed.
Mixed in with the pro-Trump crowd was a handful of Black Lives Matter demonstrators, who frequently interrupted speakers with their own chants of "Biden 2020." The tension between the two opposing factions briefly escalated into a brawl while U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong spoke to supporters.
Several men emerged from the fight with minor cuts and bloody noses, and state Highway Patrolmen escorted protester Steven LaPoint away from the rally. It appeared that LaPoint tried to place a Trump supporter under "citizen's arrest" with a pair of handcuffs, leading to pushing back and forth. The Highway Patrol could not be reached to comment on whether arrests had been made at the rally.
The event was organized through Facebook by North Dakota Republican National Committeewoman Lori Hinz and District 38 GOP Chairman Jared Hendrix. The lineup of speakers included some of the most recognizable and well-established Republicans in the state, including Armstrong, U.S. Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven, State Auditor Josh Gallion and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford.
Armstrong opened by noting that Trump is the only person who could've gotten him "out of deer camp on opening Saturday." The first-term congressman acknowledged that the news media called the election for Biden, but added that "it isn't over" as recounts begin and lawsuits brought by Trump's campaign make their way through the court system. Armstrong encouraged Trump voters to stay engaged in politics and carry on with the spirit that the president has ignited in them.
"Protest mentality has a shelf life, but movements based on freedom, liberty and a love of the United States of America go on forever," Armstrong said. "My challenge for each and every one of you is (to) hold us accountable. Make sure we continue on this movement."
Sporting a hoodie with a photoshopped image of Trump riding a bull, Cramer railed against pre-election polling, which widely favored Biden. The senator said polls showing Trump at a disadvantage were meant to discourage potential voters from casting their ballots. Cramer also condemned negative media attention that Trump received, adding that if Biden ascends to the presidency, he would not face the same scrutiny.
The first-term senator said Trump "should use every legal tool in the tool chest" to see through the election, adding that "at the very least, we're a better country because Donald Trump was president."
Cramer repeated Trump's false claim that Republican poll watchers were excluded from observing ballot-counting in Philadelphia. After the Trump campaign sued, a lower court in Pennsylvania ruled earlier this week that election observers from both sides be allowed physically closer to ballot canvassing, but there is no evidence that observers from either party were barred from the process, according to a fact check by CBS News. The court's decision has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Hoeven touted Trump's accomplishments, saying the president has been "tremendous for North Dakota." The senator said Trump has supported farmers, backed police and enabled the state to be an "energy powerhouse" by approving the Dakota Access Pipeline as one of his first acts as president.
Trump's dominance in North Dakota and other nearby rural states has provided a shot in the arm to Republicans running for local, statewide and federal offices. Cramer's defeat of Democratic incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in 2018 turned North Dakota's congressional delegation solid red. Republicans also won every statewide office on the 2020 ballot by a wide margin and expanded their supermajority in the state Legislature.