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The last minute run up to the Republicans’ second presidential debate at the Reagan Library was a study of contrasts.
At the foot of the Simi Valley hills, it was a tumult of angry protest; at the summit, outside the library, a studied calm — candidates arriving to handshakes, well-dressed guests cruising the buffet and savoring the gorgeous hillside view, and teams of TV journalists wandering about in makeup.
Those with invitations and credentials had to negotiate a long line of stalled traffic until they arrived at the first security checkpoint, where dozens of protesters with signs and bullhorns shouted “shame on you” to those driving up the hill. Late attendees were ushered up the hill in plush shuttles outfitted with champagne glasses and monogramed Reagan Library napkins.
When they reached the hilltop compound they were greeted by a virtual army of museum volunteers, including one who recalled that it was 104 degrees on the hill during the last debate at the library during the 2012 election. This time, she said she was thankful that it wasn’t raining.
The one thing both the top and bottom of the hill had strongly in common was a preoccupation with Donald Trump. At the top, every other candidate’s aide conceded to interviewers that Trump, who dominated the first debate, was the man to beat, particularly since none of the others have anything close to the former reality TV personality’s experience with the medium.
At the foot of the library’s winding drive, the billionaire businessman also was the focus of attention. There were various satiric effigies, including one of the now infamous Trump piñatas. “Stop the Platform of Hate and Racism” read one protester’s sign, while another admonished, “No Hope Without the Latino Voice.” One demonstrator held up a sign reading “Will Swap 1 Trump for 10,000 Refugees.”
Other more diverse demonstrators who braved the heavy police presence at the bottom of the slope demanded attention to the “genocide” of Christians in the Middle East, and the whole angry circus actually got under way Tuesday night when the conservative street artist who uses the name Sabo papered the whole area with posters and banners denouncing CNN, which is broadcasting the second debate.
However, for most of those in Simi Valley Wednesday — whether at the top or bottom of the hill — it was all about Trump.
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