Politics

Trumpmania Hits Alabama

Crowd laps up vintage performance in Mobile

MOBILE, Ala. — Getting thousands of people to show up for a political rally in this mid-sized city on a Friday night in August, and on a high school football night at that, is no minor feat.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign claimed to have given out 40,000 free tickets for the real estate tycoon’s highly anticipated campaign stop. It fell short of that: The campaign and city officials estimated that 30,000 people showed up at the Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the event.

But did it matter? Who’s counting, anyway? His rousing campaign event in Mobile drew the largest crowd in memory.

[lz_ndn video= 29587719]

From the moment Trump walked out on stage wearing his now-familiar red ball cap to sounds of “Sweet Home Alabama” to when he exited the stage to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” he had the crowd captivated. Alabama’s popular senator, Jeff Sessions, also got a loud cheer when he welcomed Trump to his hometown.

“We have a country not doing so well,” said Trump. “What’s happening to this country is disgraceful.” After almost every line: applause, excitement, cheers. Then he talked about how we “have to do something” about illegal immigration, which really set off the crowd.

“We have a country not doing so well,” said Trump. “What’s happening to this country is disgraceful.”

Do you support individual military members being able to opt out of getting the COVID vaccine?

By completing the poll, you agree to receive emails from LifeZette, occasional offers from our partners and that you've read and agree to our privacy policy and legal statement.

At one point, the audience interrupted Trump’s address with chants of “USA! USA!” Trump grabbed a copy of his 1987 bestseller “Trump: The Art of the Deal” from a member of the audience and called it his second-favorite book, after the Bible.

The crowd on Friday night ranged from ardent Trump supporters to the merely curious.

Bob Barnard, a 23-year Navy veteran who is working as a State Farm Insurance agent at the age of 72, said he did not care much for Trump when he first launched his presidential bid back in June. Barnard said he figured the billionaire New Yorker was an elitist.

Related: How Trump Could Triumph

Then Barnard took a gander at the rest of the field.

“We don’t have a choice,” the lifelong Mobilian said. “One of the things you’ve got to give Trump credit for is he’s saying what we all want to hear.”

Barnard said he is deeply concerned about Trump’s signature issue — border security.

“We don’t have a choice,” the lifelong Mobilian said. “One of the things you’ve got to give Trump credit for is he’s saying what we all want to hear.”

“We all say that the damned border has got to be secured. We can’t deal with the ones (illegal immigrants) we’ve got until we stop them from coming over,” he said. “This is not the country I grew up in.”

The speech itself was vintage Trump. He claimed a lobbyist recently offered him $5 million and told the crowd he turned him down because he did not want to owe anyone any favors. After a dramatic pause, Trump added tongue-in-cheek that he hated to leave money on the table.

“How ’bout if I take his money and in the end, I screw him and don’t do anything for him?” he said to laughter from the crowd.

In true campaign fashion, Trump hit the highlights of his stump speech:

  • On U.S. leaders: “We have politicians who don’t have a clue. They’re all talk and no action.”
  • On his hair: “If it rains, I’ll take off my hat, and I’ll prove once and for all that it’s mine.”
  • On the border: “We’re going to build a wall.”
  • On the “crassness” of his promise to make America rich: “In order to make our country great again, I have to make it rich. We’re a debtor country.”
  • On negotiating trade deals: “If you have free trade, you need competent leaders.”
  • On Nabisco closing a Chicago plant and opening one in Mexico: “Mexico’s the new China.”
  • On the contrast between himself and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: “Who would you rather have negotiating with China or Mexico or any of them, Trump or Bush?”

The mentions of Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton and the media drew boos from the crowd. Trump denounced President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran and promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Trump said he originally planned to hold Friday’s event in a hotel ballroom and then made arrangements to move it to the Mobile Civic Center to accommodate a spike in interest. When it became clear that venue would not have sufficient seating, organizers relocated to the football arena that hosts the annual Senior Bowl college football all-star game.

Trump has clearly served notice to his GOP competitors that he will be a force in a bright red state in the Deep South. Alabama is one of a dozen states set to vote March 1 in what has been dubbed the “SEC primary” because of the large number of states that have universities that compete in the Southeastern Conference.

By choosing Mobile as the venue for his Alabama appearance, Trump got access to vote-rich Florida. Mobile and Pensacola, Fla., share a media market, and while the GOP race includes a former governor of the Sunshine State and a sitting senator, some polls have suggested Trump is leading even there.

Ruben Manlangit, who lives in west Mobile, said his father immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. But the 56-year-old said he was not bothered by Trump’s harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration.

“We need change, and if it takes Mr. Trump to do it, so be it. A lot of people say a lot of things they shouldn’t say, and I can’t hold that against him.”

“We need change, and if it takes Mr. Trump to do it, so be it,” he said. “A lot of people say a lot of things they shouldn’t say, and I can’t hold that against him.”

Manlangit’s wife, Shawn, said she has never voted for a Republican for president. But she is keeping an open mind about Trump, she said.

“I like his no-frills campaign and that he’s not a typical politician,” she said.

The non-politician persona also appealed to Todd Moses, even though he acknowledged a skepticism about Trump’s immigration plan.

“I like what he’s doing. I like that he’s stirring everything up,” he said, adding that he also likes retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and “somewhat” likes Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The 46-year-old  Mobile man works construction and owns a mobile D.J. business. He said he is an independent who leans Republican. “But I don’t really have a lot of trust in the establishment Republicans,” he said.

Denithe Hart, a 56-year-old Mobile resident, said she believes it is important to be colorblind when it comes to politics. Hart, who is black, said she is drawn to Trump’s message on trade. Although it’s not a direct threat to her — her job as a child care worker is in no danger of being outsourced to China — she said her business suffers if her customers lose their jobs.

“I have a job. But there are a whole lot of people who don’t, and they need one real bad,” she said.

Hart had some advice for Trump: “Don’t be the promising president and not fulfill your promises.”

Join the Discussion

Comments are currently closed.