Thousands of Trump backers gather for president’s rally

Beth LeBlanc, and Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News

Washington Township — Thousands of President Donald Trump's supporters are descending Saturday on a three-month-old sports complex in an undeveloped part of Macomb County, waiting for the president's scheduled campaign-style event.

The Trump campaign has made much ado of the fact that the president is spurning the White House Correspondents' dinner in Washington, D.C., to spend time with regular citizens in Washington Township.

For Lynn Vineyard, the crowd gathered outside the Total Sports Park in the hopes of capturing a glimpse of Trump was a novel sight.

Vineyard is new to political rallies, let alone a rally for a Republican. The Mount Clemens Navy veteran calls himself a “Democratic Trump supporter” who believes in the working class but says he felt disenchanted with his party in 2016. Instead he voted for Trump.

“For the first time, I feel like we might get back to what America was founded on,” Vineyard said.

Vineyard was among like company as he waited in line on a grassy field Saturday afternoon beside people wearing red caps, American flags, jackets, scarves and gloves.

By 4 p.m., the line had started to move inside Total Sports Park complex. The green Astroturf inside was broken up by silver bleachers, television cameras and the main stage, whose backdrop was three massive American flags.

The rally will serve as a stop in Trump’s 2020 campaign and a snub of the White House Correspondents dinner. The former real estate mogul is expected to speak about the success of Michigan’s economy, deregulation, tax cuts and low employment.

For Rick and Kathleen Madolski, Trump’s tax breaks have affirmed their 2016 vote for the president.

“He’s doing everything he said since he’s gotten into office,” said Rick Madolski of Kimball Township.

Kathleen Madolski said she hopes Trump keeps it up.

“I hope to see a wall built,” she said. “I’d like to see prosperity in the United States again. He’s bringing hope.”

Thirteen-year-old Dylan King of Macomb Township arrived at the sports complex at 9 a.m., about 10 hours before the scheduled 7 p.m. rally. Together, Dylan, his brother and three friends wore shirts that spelled out Trump in red lettering. The shirts were enough to win them a spot on stage when Trump visited the Freedom Hills amphitheater in Sterling Heights in 2016, two days before the election.

Dylan is hoping for a repeat. “Now we’re back for Round 2,” he said.

One Trump fan drove his “Trump unity bridge” — a trailer with a bridge crossing hooked up to a sport utility vehicle — to Washington Township and was ensuring engaged couples that he would be “making their lives great again” if they chose to get married on the unity bridge.

Trump supporters began arriving as early as 3 a.m. Friday. Randal Thom, 58, of Lakefield, Minnesota, and Cindy Hoffman, 57, of Independence, Iowa, were the only ones in the Total Sports Park parking lot on Friday morning but were later forced off of the premises as local police and Secret Service began preparing the area for Trump’s speech.

On Saturday morning, the president tweeted that he was looking forward to the re-election campaign-sponsored event.

“Look forward to being in the Great State of Michigan tonight,” Trump tweeted. “Major business expansion and jobs pouring into your State. Auto companies expanding at record pace. Big crowd tonight, will be live on T.V.”

Kathy Gibbons, a 62-year-old retiree from Kalamazoo, said her 401(k) retirement savings plan is “performing better than ever” since Trump took office and is not concerned about Democratic arguments that Republican tax cuts will lead to spending cuts in benefit programs she enjoys.

“Right now I receive Social Security, I’m on Medicare and I’m not worried a bit,” she said. “I also have a pre-existing cancerous condition, and I support the president.”

Repealing the Affordable Care Act, which the president has attempted but so far failed to do, could “impact me,” Gibbons said. “But we’ve had too many moochers for way too long, and it’s really hurt our country.”

Gibbons said she thinks the president has “done everything right,” even crediting Trump with administration turnover during a tumultuous 15 months in office.

“He’s draining the swamp. If you don’t perform, you lose your job,” she said of firings or resignations of key administration officials Trump appointed.  “He selected them, but he’s not afraid to get them out of there if they’re not performing.”

John Engel, 53, a self-employed mason and soybean farmer in St. Clair County, praised Trump for slapping tariffs on Chinese goods despite the Chinese government's retaliatory threats against U.S. soybeans and fears of further retribution targeting the agricultural sector.

“China can’t afford to lose us for soybeans,” said Engel, who sells most of his beans locally. “We’ve definitely got to do something different because everything’s built in China.

“Past presidents were weak. This guy has got a backbone, and he don’t take no bull----. My kind of guy.”