President Donald J. Trump visits West Michigan
Thousands of people lined up Wednesday morning in downtown Battle Creek for the campaign rally for President Donald Trump on Wednesday night. (Photo by Luke Froncheck)
President Donald Trump was expected Wednesday to become the ninth chief executive to visit the Cereal City.
More than 15,000 people were expected to gather for the rally in and around Kellogg Arena in downtown Battle Creek. For many political observers in Barry County, the rally for the president made perfect sense.
“Michigan has a pivotal role in selecting the next president,” Barry County Commissioner Ben Geiger said. “Part of his success has been talking to voters who don’t often get a look by major candidates. This area is a place of traditional Republicans, family farms, and blue-collar workers.”
“I would love to go, but no,” Drain Commissioner Jim Dull said. “But I’m 110 percent behind him. He’s the only president I’ve ever sent money to.
“I think he is concerned about the normal people and wants to engage them. He wants to bring normal people into the room. All the Democrats are going to wherever they can get primary votes. He’s not campaigning like that. I think he has faith that he is doing things right.”
Sheena Eastman, chairwoman of the Barry County Democratic Party, said county Democrats were planning to attend the event, particularly for the protest outside Kellogg Arena.
“Michigan is a battleground area, and I think that the Democrats want to make their voices heard here just as much as Trump does,” she said.
“The president’s visit is pretty significant,” her husband, Ben Eastman, said. “I plan on going to protest and we’re expecting a pretty good turnout. We want to show there is good opposition to the president and his policy.”
To some, a presidential visit means more than politics.
“I would just like to go see a president,” said Delton Kellogg Schools Superintendent Kyle Corlett, who was unable to attend the event. “I would’ve gone to see Obama, too. You have to respect the office of the presidency.”
Yanik Jost, a 17-year-old Delton Kellogg exchange student from Switzerland, said he'll be there.
“The fact that I get to actually see the guy who everybody keeps talking about is a great opportunity that I don’t want to miss,” Jost said. “It will definitely help me to make up my own opinion about the current president of the United States.”
Trump was expected to be joined on stage by Vice President Mike Pence. The appearance of the nation's top two leaders together likely presents a bit of a security challenge for police and Secret Service. It also underscores the importance of Michigan's heartland for the Trump campaign, some county elected officials said.
“He (President Trump) must think it’s extremely important,” Barry County Commissioner Jon Smelker said.
Commissioner David Jackson agreed. “It shows the importance of Michigan to the 2020 elections. With all the political divisiveness in Washington, D.C., it is bringing a message to people that our area really matters.”
Trump won the 2016 election in Michigan by a little more than 10,700 votes, and the state is seen as a key to the president’s re-election campaign.
“Being in Michigan early and often will be a good strategy to put them on the right track to do it again,” Jackson said.
“Michigan was a big state for his win,” county Commissioner Vivian Conner said. “I think he wants to stay close to the people in Michigan. I think he wants to keep this positive motion going.”