About 5,000 people gathered at Richmond International Raceway for Donald Trump's presidential campaign rally Wednesday night. (Photo by Tom Nash)
Between the extremes represented at Donald Trump’s Wednesday night presidential campaign rally at Richmond International Raceway, the two bearded men in Trump’s “Make America Great Again” trucker hats fell somewhere in the middle.
These men, wearing Trump's campaign trucker hats, said they were at the rally neither to cheer nor jeer The Donald. (Photo by Tom Nash)
The pair waited at the track’s giant exhibition hall neither to cheer nor jeer The Donald, whose campaign for the Republican nomination enjoys front-runner poll numbers, yet wages a constant battle against joke-candidate status. Peering out from their American flag aviators, both conceded they were there for some fun. Neither wanted to give his name.
“We found these at a Halloween costume shop,” one said of the hats.
Five thousand people, according to the official count, packed the hall south of Richmond to scream for -- and against -- Trump.
The vast majority sang along to The Star Spangled Banner before Trump’s arrival, and greeted him with a roar of approval. Among them: Liberty University student David Rose and Chesterfield resident Derek Cull. Rose, decked in a salmon-colored fleece and golf visor, drove an hour for his first-ever campaign rally. He plans to volunteer.
“He’s different from everyone else,” Rose said of Trump. “He doesn’t care what everybody else thinks -- that’s what I like about him.
Cull plans to vote for Trump, but doubts he’ll pull through the primary. His only certainty is he won’t pull the lever for Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Carly Fiorina: “I don’t believe a woman should lead the country,” Cull said. When asked if he was serious, he replied: "I’m a Christian. A man is the head of the household.”
Trump took the stage. His hour in front of the crowd veered between memoir and burn list -- all flowing together without aid of teleprompter or notes. He took special note to thank the employees of his Virginia vineyard. He said he counts disgraced CIA director David Petraeus (whose email scandal amounted to “only 5 percent” of Hillary Clinton’s) and the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner as friends. He now has a negative opinion of Rand Paul, “who attacked me first.” Trump just ordered 4,000 TVs, and, “they’re all from South Korea.”
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Photo by Tom Nash
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(Photo by Tom Nash)
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Signs like these were popular at the Trump rally Wednesday night. (Photo by Tom Nash)
He listed Virginia’s founding fathers, pausing for cheers after each.
When Trump launched into his stance on immigration (Mostly: “Build a wall, make Mexico pay for it.”), a crowd of a few dozen circling around the back took their cue. Throwing up signs, including one stating “No Human Life is Illegal” they began shouting “Dump Trump.” The protesters held on for several minutes, with Trump conceding their right to free speech as the mass shouted them back down.
“We have about 10 people over there,” Trump said. “They’ll get the headline.”
The protesters gradually retreated back to the edges, some by choice, others led by Henrico police and Trump’s private security. As one group of protesters made their way out, a Trump supporter shouted: “I am an immigrant, you piece of s--t.” An online video later revealed one man yelling and spitting on one protester.
While the crowd battled among itself in pockets, Trump veered toward what was almost a stump speech. He did an interview the other day, he said, and was asked about his most pleasant surprise so far.
“The public,” Trump answered. “They really get it.”
Another roar from the crowd. Trump then took his leave to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
A teenage boy pressed in close for a glimpse as most headed for the exit. After the hipsters, Anybody-But-Hillary onlookers and protesters had left, a few hundred faithful remained.
“I was ready to fight those people,” the boy said.
A man looked down. “Calm down, son.”