SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCBD) – It was a hot Lowcountry fall morning as thousands of devout supporters of Donald Trump waited eagerly for their chance to hear from the former President in their own hometown.
“We got here shortly after 7 a.m.,” Cathy Swain said. “The line probably had 100 or more people in front of us.”
Swain was just one of thousands of people who began lining up for the event at Sportsman Boats in Summerville hours before Trump was expected to take the stage. Together, they formed a sea of ‘Make America Great Again’ inspired attire. Some donned t-shirts and pins with the former president’s mugshot and others held flags waving TRUMP 2024 written across them.
“He is for us. He’s not for only one group. He’s not a clique, and I think he’s good for us. And because he didn’t make it the last time because of who else is in the office right now, that’s why we’re in this shape that we’re in now,” said Pamela Williams who lives in Moncks Corner.
The economy was a flashpoint for much of the crowd as he railed against inflation and rising prices, knocking current President Joe Biden and his handling of the economy. It is an area they feel Trump is better equipped to handle.
“He knows how to manage a business and that’s what the country is — it’s the biggest business concern in the world — and we need somebody in there that knows how to run it like a business,” supporter Doug Smith said.
Even non-voters participated in the Summerville rally, drawing admirers not yet old enough to cast their ballot in the election.
“I love that he believes in other people and believes that he can make America great again,” 10-year-old Parker Duffy said.
Trump’s one-day, multi-stop Lowcountry swing came as he maintains a commanding lead over his GOP rivals in national polling, a point he reminded the crowd of frequently during the roughly 40-minute speech.
“I’m leading all of Republicans in numbers that nobody’s actually seen before,” Trump said, boasting about his double-digit lead.
Without naming her directly, Trump took several jabs at former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, his closest rival in the first-in-the-South primary state.
“We’re beating your former governor who’s not nearly as good as your current governor,” he said. Haley left the governor’s office to serve as the 29th U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under the Trump Administration.
“He was one of the reasons I got her out of here so I could make him governor of the state,” Trump said, speaking about current Gov. Henry McMaster. “Let her move and get Henry there. People are very happy about that.”
A poll from Monmouth University-Washington Post earlier this month showed 46% of likely GOP primary voters in South Carolina said they plan to vote for Trump in the February primary, while 18 percent said they plan to vote for Haley.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) came in third place, with 10 percent support. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis followed at 9 percent.
Williams said that although she likes Haley, Trump is still her first choice.
“She did a great job for South Carolina, but honestly I don’t feel like she has enough experience for the issues that are going on right now in South Carolina and the country,” she said.
The South Carolina Republican presidential primary will be held on February 24, 2024.