Crowd of Trump fans lines up early outside Council Bluffs arena

Crowd of Trump fans lines up early outside Council Bluffs arena
World-Herald News Service

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Fans of President Donald Trump drove from Nebraska and Iowa and other states, waited hours in the rain and even camped out overnight in order to see the president speak in Council Bluffs.

The president, scheduled to speak starting at about 6:30 p.m., is expected to promote his decision to allow the year-round sale sale of higher ethanol blends as well as Nebraska and Iowa Republican candidates.

Supporters said they were excited about Trump’s top political issues, including Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the recent income tax overhaul and bringing the fight to Democrats.

“Sometimes he sticks his foot in his mouth, but we will take a little bit of that from someone who will fight,” said Kirby Young of Lincoln. “There’s no such thing as a fair fight, and he understands that the way the Democrats always have, unlike so many Republicans”.

There’s little doubt about the loyalty of President Donald Trump’s biggest fans.

The president, whose polling numbers among Republicans show tremendous buoyancy under any circumstances, is scheduled to speak starting at about 6:30 p.m.

With thousands in a line that stretched around a strip mall, through the parking lot and around the field house, the doors to the Mid-America Center opened just before 3:30 p.m.

Hours before, at 10:30 a.m., a crowd of more than 150 people had lined up outside the Mid-America Center. About 10 of them had camped out overnight.

One family of campers took a shared approach to the elements. Lincoln resident Kirby Young, a 56-year-old who described himself as a conservative, said it was his turn to sit in line while his family went to a nearby hotel to warm up and eat breakfast.

Sitting in the rain, under a tarp supplied by a friend, was worth it, he said, because his 13-year-old daughter, also a Trump fan, would get to see the president speak.

“Sometimes he sticks his foot in his mouth, but we will take a little bit of that from someone who will fight,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a fair fight, and he understands that the way the Democrats always have, unlike so many Republicans.”

Connie Benedict of Creston, Iowa, said she’d never been to an event like this. She was she’s excited to see a president who she said keeps his promises. The Iowa Republican arrived at the arena parking lot at 5 a.m. Tuesday.

She said she’s proud of he president for following through on what he said he would do about immigration, the economy and taxes, and disappointed in the lack of “spine” some fellow Republicans have shown in Congress.

“I’m 72 years old,” she said. “I’ve never seen a president keep so many of his campaign promises. But he needs support in Congress.”

That’s why she says she supports re-electing Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. David Young in the 3rd District, because she says Democrats like House candidate Cindy Axne want to stand in the way.

Trump is visiting multiple states for campaign rallies to promote Republicans ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

Young is scheduled to appear at the rally. Others planning to attend include Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert was not at the rally but Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer was scheduled to meet the president after he landed at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield.

Trump made official Tuesday his administration’s decision to allow the  of higher ethanol blends, an issue that’s been a priority for Iowa and Nebraska, the nation’s two leading producers of ethanol.

At a pro-ethanol event before Trump’s speech, agricultural supporters praised the decision and said they hope the Environmental Protection Agency implements it quickly.

“This is unleashing the free market by getting rid of bureaucratic regulations,” said State Rep. Jon Jacobsen, a Republican who represents Council Bluffs.

Ray Gaesser of Corning, Iowa, said the decision will bolster an industry that’s grappling with falling commodity prices, lower gas prices and create jobs.

“It’s a big deal,” he said.

At other recent rallies, Trump has touted his “tremendous victory” in appointing Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, criticized top Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and urged his supporters to vote.

Iowa and Nebraska Democrats said expected to protest the president’s speech and have a presence around the arena.

Democratic Party leaders in Iowa and Nebraska, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price and Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb, issued a joint statement criticizing the GOP for failing to keep its promises to rural Americans:

“Our farmers and rural communities have been left in the dust by the Trump Administration, Governors Reynolds and Ricketts, and their Republican allies. It’s time to put common sense back in charge of this country.”

Axne, Young’s opponent, said in a separate statement that she was pleased to see Trump keep his campaign promise on E15, but she said farmers “are still suffering from President Trump’s unnecessary tariffs” and “reckless trade war.”

At an afternoon press conference, Price said Democrats are focused on getting people to the polls. If people show up, he says, Democrats will retake Iowa and the country.

Despite the chance for disagreements later, the mood outside the arena Tuesday morning was festive.

Salem, Nebraska, resident Lee Clark, 45, brought a tailgate tent to keep dry while waiting for the president to speak.

She didn’t expect to find so many friendly people, including Ryan Hoefer, 27, of Louisville, Nebraska, who came prepared to cook breakfast. He was cooking eggs and bacon for a crew of line sitters around 9 a.m.

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