By JOSEPHINE MENDEZ
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Supporters from the Tri-State area and beyond showed up by the masses Thursday at Big Sandy Superstore Arena for President Donald Trump’s visit, expecting him to talk about jobs and ways to boost the economy.
Down the street, a coalition of 13 citizen action groups gathered to protest the president’s visit, saying he has gone back on everything he promised on the campaign trail, including jobs and improving health care.
“He has made no progress on any front,” said Michael Eisenberg, 61, of Roane County, West Virginia.
Those supporting Trump turned out hours before the president was expected to touch down in West Virginia, some even showing up Wednesday night in order to get a prime spot for the president’s appearance.
First in line, after showing up at 7 p.m. Wednesday – 21 hours before the arena doors opened – was Patricia Morgan, 70, of Brooklyn, New York. She said the bus ride from New York took 22 hours, including a three-hour detour when the bus broke down.
“I’ll do anything for Trump,” she said while sporting the iconic red “Make America Great Again” hat and a Trump shirt and button.
Having been to four other Trump rallies across the country, Morgan said it was refreshing to see a president who wears his heart on this sleeve and speaks his mind.
“He’s a good person. He’s not perfect, but he’s got a good heart,” she said. “… He does everything he can to make America better for us and our families.”
Other supporters, who had never heard Trump speak in person, also were excited for what they called his “off-the-cuff” remarks and his relatable demeanor.
“He stands for all the things that the average, hardworking American people want,” said Pam Ross, 51, of South Point, Ohio. “He speaks for the people. … We’re all blue-collar, hardworking Americans, and that’s where he won.”
While Ross said she is looking forward to Trump making good on his promise to build a wall along the Mexican border, she said what is needed most for the Tri-State area is jobs.
“In this area it’s the drug epidemic (that’s the problem), and a lot of that is jobs,” she said. “… But I think that the people he appointed are the people that we need in those positions to get the jobs back.”
Wayne County resident Emily Robinson, 22, said Trump’s dedication to growing the economy could already be seen, referencing the Dow Jones stock market average reaching a record high.
“Our economy is starting to grow and boom again, and that’s something that’s really encouraging, especially for West Virginians, because the legislation that has crippled our coal industry has crippled our entire economy,” she said.
Robinson was joined by her brother, Joseph VanWinkle, 18, and friend, Caleb Lyans, who had been standing in line since 10 a.m. Thursday and were also saving a spot for Robinson’s 84-year-old great-grandmother.
Trump supporters like Robinson and VanWinkle said the proposed changes to health care were all aimed at fixing a broken system and it was unsettling that the people would choose to stand in the way of that.
“He pretty much told Congress to get their stuff together so that we could help repeal Obamacare and replace it with something that is actually going to work instead of crippling the health care infrastructure,” Robinson said.
While Huntington is not a place you’d normally see a sitting president, VanWinkle said it comes as no surprise to him that Trump would want to visit the Jewel City.
“He’s going back to thank everybody that’s helped him out,” he said. “West Virginia was one of the big ones that really voted for him by a lot.”
VanWinkle said he looked forward to hearing more about Trump’s plan to make good on his promises to bring back coal jobs and reduce U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
“It’s nice to know that he hasn’t forgotten about us and that he’s still working to do what he promised to do for us,” he said.
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