NORCOSS, Ga. — Donald Trump’s enthusiastic crowd at his first Georgia rally Saturday showed why he leads polls in the PeachState among Republican presidential hopefuls. The crowd arrived early and periodically chanted his name while waiting. The real-estate developer/television personality rose to their energy when he appeared. “They used to call it the silent majority. It’s not silent now,” he said. His off-the-cuff speech was vintage Trump, and even supporters seemed distracted at times.
He was 35 minutes into the talk before he mentioned any policies. First he recounted his argument for why his wealth best prepares him to be president. Then he ridiculed each of the other candidates one at a time. Next he warned supporters that the media and opposing political-action committees will attack him. Finally, he mentioned his tax plan, education, the military and undocumented immigration. At that point, two young women who appeared Asian removed their shirts and made obscene gestures in front of the press area.They had written across their abdomens “offense taken.” Trump supporters confronted them until a security guard escorted them out of the building. The candidate said he welcomes legal immigrants. Trump bragged that he is equipped to be the nominee and to step into the Oval Office. “When you look at how our government is run, it’s not going to be that hard,” he said.
While he spoke, a steady stream of supporters, in threes and fours, slid out of the hot, crowded auditorium, something uncommon at political rallies. Most stayed to the end and showed their commitment by taking home campaign buttons, signs and selfies. Many were like 80-year-old retired comptroller Laquita Doris Ballew of Norcross who said she has little in common with a billionaire New Yorker but believes he can’t be bought by special interests. “I’m opposed to socialism, and he’s the ultimate capitalist,” she said.
Timed to be convenient to working folks and located in a middle-class suburb, the free rally drew an estimated 7,700 people. Many donned red ball caps like Trump, pins and T-shirts. They were mostly white, middle-aged and drove American-made cars. Radio host Herman Cain warmed up the crowd between the first preacher and National Anthem and a country band with the second preacher. Like Trump, he is a former businessman who styled his 2008 presidential campaign as an outsider’s assault on the establishment with proposals like replacing the income tax and U.S. foreign policy. “The establishment folks can’t even say ‘replace.’ They say ‘reform.’ That means they ain’t going to change anything,” said Cain, who hasn’t endorsed any candidate. As Cain noted, Trump speaks for people frustrated by the status quo and feeling ignored by those in power. He said establishmentRepublicans characterize followers of populist leaders like Trump as being crazy. “I love those crazies,” Cain thundered.
Trump wasn’t the only leading Republican candidate stumping in Georgia this weekend. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson scheduled a book signing at 7 p.m. about 10 miles away as part of his own outsider campaign and a church visit in Gainesville Sunday. National polls show Tump and Carson in first and second place among people who say they intend to vote in the Republican primary next year. Trump’s standing has slid slightly in recent polls while Carson’s are on a rise.