President Donald Trump visited West Columbia to support Governor Henry McMaster at a rally on the eve of South Carolina elections, and many candidates for offices across the state government were gathered to garner support for themselves, McMaster and Trump.
McMaster, a USC alum and the current governor of South Carolina, has been in office since former governor Nikki Haley resigned to become the nation's ambassador the the United Nations.
In a final push to secure his bid for reelection, McMaster invited Trump to speak on his behalf, and the event was held at Airport High School in West Columbia. The lines to enter the venue began over seven hours before the president was set to speak, and despite the humidity and 90 degree heat, supporters of Trump and McMaster wanted to ensure they had a good view of the event.
Ginger, a customer service training and team building consultant from St. Matthews, voted for Trump in the last election and came out to support him.
“I like that he is not afraid to do what needs to be done,” she said.
Ginger was undecided if she was voting for McMaster. She was fond of both challenger John Warren and incumbent McMaster, and hoped the rally would help her decide between the two candidates.
“I think if we get the right people in office and people with the right attitudes, they’ll get the job done,” she said.
Trump's presence drew people from all sides with strong feelings towards the former businessman. Supporters of Trump were inside, getting ready to see their idol, while those who disapproved protested off of the property. As for those against the president, Ginger said she respected the opposition, as long as they were respectful of her and the others’ beliefs.
“Everybody has a right to protest and everybody has a right to feel the way that they do," she said. "As long as they keep it peaceable.”
Down the street from the school was a collection of demonstrators, who brandished their signs at the cars approaching the parking lot. People of all generations were gathered to express their dislike for the administration.
Tyler, a student at Chapin High School and resident of Columbia, came out to protest the recent decisions made by the government.
“We want to bring attention to the children that have been broken up from families, and the harm that's been caused in the country because of the president,” he said.
Inside the event, Maria Rojas of West Columbia was the star of the preshow. The elderly Spanish immigrant of small stature waved a homemade sign at CNN reporter Jim Acosta and accused him of being “fake news." Her actions inspired the entire room to chant “Fake news Jim” and “Go home Jim” each time he began reporting.
“I told him he needs to get the hell out of here,” Rojas said. “He needs to respect the president. They are fake news, and he is disgraceful.”
Austin, from Lexington, declared himself an independent. Unlike most of the crowd, he did not come because of his love of the President, but to learn more about the Commander in Chief's beliefs.
“I want to listen to what Trump has to say about South Carolinians,” he said.
After the hot temperatures earlier in the day, storm clouds arrived with the speakers. Columbia was shrouded by thunderstorms, and Air Force One had to circle for almost an hour before the president was able to land. Despite the long wait, the supporters’ excitement stayed high as they waited for the governor and president.
Around 8 p.m., the president and governor entered the school gym to an electrified crowd bathed in Republican red.
McMaster knew just who he had invited to the rally.
"We were watching these forces of nature ... the storm and the rain, and then it cleared and Air Force One landed and the real force of nature stepped out," McMaster said.
Trump, wearing his standard suit and red tie, took the stage with much applause to begin his speech.
After thanking the crowd for the patience, the president began recounting his history with the candidate. He declared McMaster was there “from the beginning,” and that “he’s a fighter, he’s tough, he's strong.”
As for the media his followers condemned earlier, Trump said, “We just want honesty ... we don’t get very much of it.”
"So please, get your asses out tomorrow," Trump said to support the governor in the next day’s race. After everything said by Trump and McMaster, it was left up to South Carolina voters to decide who would be the best choice for governor.
McMaster would go on to defeat Warren in Tuesday's primary to secure the Republican nomination for governor.