The rally at the Douglas County Fairgrounds Event Center on Tuesday started in typically upbeat fashion.
An honor guard launched the meeting with a crisp pass around the room. More than 200 stalwart conservative activists joined together in a hardy rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance. And, when the speeches started and high-profile Republican Party candidates and officeholders took turns jibing Democratic figures and lampooning liberal policy positions, the crowd hooted and laughed.
But, as the event progressed, the mood in the building grew dark.