"I like what they're saying. It's common sense," Robert Shawn said of the tea party activists. The 51-year-old assistant kitchen manager at the Searchlight Nugget Casino, where some tea party backers asked him for directions, said he didn't want to see the movement taken over by fringe views.
"If it becomes radical, it won't work. They've got to focus on issues like keeping jobs here and lowering the cost of prescription drugs," he said, adding that many protesters had asked him where the senator lives. "I'm not going to tell no one where he lives."
Several tea party leaders have denounced violence and vandalism as a protest tactic.
At the same time, some of those leaders also cast doubt over whether reports of intimidation and window-smashing were exaggerated or made up by opponents to damage the tea party movement's image. Conservative activists point to the incidents as another reason not to trust mainstream media and to blame the left.
"Thuggery is a tactic of the left wing," Mark Williams, a Tea Party Express organizer, said from the stage. "We will not stand for it!"
Many activists were skeptical of reports that a racial slur was directed at Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) during a healthcare protest in Washington last weekend. In video of the noisy protest that has emerged on the Web, the purported obscenity is inaudible.
"They don't have no true evidence of that," said Joyce Bough, 64, a retired accountant from Bullhead City, Ariz. "I think that's all made up."
Her husband, Mel, nodded in agreement while holding a sign asking, "Is our freedom lost forever????"
Reid stayed clear of his hometown Saturday, instead campaigning at a Las Vegas shooting range. His campaign issued a statement: "Ultimately, though, this election will be decided by Nevadans, not people from other states who parachute in for one day to have a tea party." The statement also thanked the tea party supporters for the economic boost they gave his hometown.