Democrats Attend Trump Rally, Express Support
VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Jeannie Weaver was a registered Democrat all of her adult life until she listened closely to Donald Trump.
“I’m crossing over this time,” she said shortly after a rally concluded for the GOP front-runner at the Winner Aviation hangar at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. “I didn’t care for any of the candidates” on the Democratic ticket or the rest of the Republican slate, she said. The only reason she’s voting Republican, she added, is because of Trump.
“He’s going to build a wall, change America, and bring jobs back,” Weaver stated.
Weaver and her husband, Bob, were among the 2,000 or so supporters who crowded into the hangar to hear the candidate, who flew from Florida to address a gathering here Monday evening, the night before voters go to the polls in the state’s primaries.
The latest Quinnipiac poll has Trump and Republican presidential hopeful Gov. John Kasich tied at 38% in Ohio.
Trump arrived around 6:30 p.m. as his personal Boeing 757 rolled to a stop just outside the hangar. With him was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former GOP candidate and rival, now one of Trump’s most ardent supporters.
Most of Trump’s appeal to this crowd rested on his hard-hitting straight talk that struck a chord with many of the working-class Ohioans.
“Overall, I think it was a great turnout,” said Nick McCormick, a 20-year-old who grew up in a Democratic household. “I was a registered Democrat when I was 18. I switched over as soon as Trump started running.”
McCormick said he was undecided between Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. “I was on the fence until recently,” he said, before choosing Trump.
For these voters, Trump is a voice that they feel has gone largely unheard over the last half century. “I’ll be voting for them tomorrow. My sons will be 18 when they vote for him for re-election – I’m pretty confident we’re going to win,” Bill Irons said.
Irons — the former president of a Steelworkers union local and a lifelong Republican – said he’s especially upset at the Republican Party establishment and its attempt to silence Trump and derail his candidacy. Ironically, the backlash might be helping, not hindering, Trump, he suggested.
Those who attended the rally boarded buses at Eastwood Field in Niles and were driven to the airport. Supporters were still streaming into the rally 25 minutes into the candidate’s speech, which lasted more than 45 minutes.
An hour before the rally’s scheduled 6 p.m. start, a line of people stretched around the parking lot at Eastwood Field, which had been requested to serve as a drop-off/pickup site for the rally.
The ball field parking lot was nearly full. When the Mahoning Valley Scrappers play there, a crowded lot usually indicates in excess of 6,000 people in the stadium, said Joe Bell, spokesman for the Cafaro Co. The Cafaro Co. owns the Eastwood Mall Complex, site of the ball field.
“It is pretty amazing,” Bell remarked. People started showing up around 1:30 p.m., he reported.
“We’ve done this before for community events,” such as air shows at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Bell noted. “Because we have no events happening out here at Eastwood Field tonight, we saw no reason why we couldn’t do that again.”
Many of the individuals waiting in line to be bused to the airport said they supported Trump’s promise – reflected in his campaign slogan – to “make America great again.”
Amy Waid of Cortland stood in line with several family members. “We like what he stands for,” she said. “We like that he says what he means and he means what he says, and that he’s basically [financially] supporting his own candidacy.”
“He’s not owned by any lobbyists,” added Brooke Waid, who will vote for the first time Tuesday. “I believe in what he’s going to bring to our country, all the great things he has in store.”
Lisa Dickson of Brookfield, there with her friend Tina O’Brien, said she agrees with Trump’s positions on immigration and “expanding our military and making it strong.”
Dickson specifically criticized the Obama administration for cuts to the wings based at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station here, which contributes an estimated $100 million to the local economy.
“It’s important to re-examine our trade agreements. … We’re not playing in the global marketplace like we can,” she added. “I’m afraid of ISIS and I think we need a strong leader who’s willing to get out there and do something about it.”
Some who waited were undecided, such as Thomas and Wendy McQuistion of Boardman. They are Democrats who, like several of their fellows, are contemplating taking a Republican ballot when they vote today.
“We’re still making our mind up,” Wendy McQuistion said. “This is all new to us and we’re just checking out the rally.”
“What I like about Mr. Trump is he’s not the normal politics as usual,” Thomas McQuistion said. “I myself am tired that the politicians can’t work together and get things accomplished. It seems like our political system is not working correctly.”
Andy Deem of Struthers, a high school student about to cast his first vote, said he wanted to see Trump in person to help him make up his mind.
“He seems pretty strong in the way he talks and what he talks about,” he said. “And he wants to make America great again.”
At 6 p.m., a volunteer for the Trump campaign who declined to give his name – others at the mall site identified him as Mickey Fox – accepted a bullhorn mall officials offered to announce that the Secret Service had “shut down” the area by the airport and was not admitting any more buses.
‘You’re not going to get to go there. You might as well go home,” he said. “The buses aren’t running anymore.”
Teachers Paul Rees of Hartford and Scott Merola of McDonald were among those disappointed to be left behind.
“I will support Trump if he’s the nominee, but I want to hear the man speak. It’s part of the political process,” he said.
“I appreciate how outspoken he is but he’s not my first choice,” Merola said.
Rob Brough of Ellwood city, Pa., said he was curious to hear what Trump, toward whom he is leaning in the Pennsylvania Primary in May, had to say. “The bottom line is nobody is saying what he’s saying,” he remarked. “I like somebody who is saying what they think and what they believe and it’s all about the country.”
“For the most part, things went smooth,” mall property manager Matthew Boarts said as people continued to leave the property. He was surprised when additional buses began showing up again and taking on passengers around 6:30 p.m.
Tom O’Neill, a representative of the Trumbull County Young Republicans helping to coordinate the rally, said a couple of accidents at Howland-Wilson Road and state Route 82 “kind of slowed things down.” When Trump was running late as well, they started the buses up again,” he said.
“We let [the Trump campaign] know there were people getting turned away,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that some people got turned away and did leave but I think some people were pleasantly surprised that the buses started to run again.”
Inside the hangar, Trump’s rhetoric was less volatile than before when he expressed his disdain for protestors at his rallies with comments such as, “Knock the crap out of them, would you?” and pledged to pay any legal fees that might arise from a resulting lawsuit.
Critics blame Trump and his comments for the outbreaks of violence at of his appearances the last two weeks. Trump maintains that any violence is the result of protesters – whom he calls “disrupters” — not his supporters or his words.
Indeed, before the rally began, a voice over a loudspeaker instructed those in attendance to remain calm should there be protesters, to just point them out until security could escort them outside.
No protestors or opponents of Trump made themselves known inside the hangar. However, outside and across the street from the airport, about a dozen activists held signs protesting the candidate’s positions.
“America will never stand for a president that acts like that,” declared David Rookard, a student at the University of Akron who along with 11 others lined state Route 193 and held placards that read, “Dump Trump” and “End Racism.”
Asked why they didn’t try to enter the airport as other protesters have done at earlier Trump rallies, Rookard said, “We would have all had our asses beaten and thrown out of that event, so that’s why we didn’t enter.”
Erin Auld of Brookfield called Trump’s words “hate-filled” and that such speech would not inhibit his opponents’ voices. “It’s not going to work on us,” she said.
Note: George Nelson contributed reporting to this story.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.