By Emily Morrison, Vivian Nguyen, Natalie Kerwin and Naomi Oladeinde
CHARLESTON, S.C. — While South Carolina Democrats were focused on choosing a presidential candidate, President Donald Trump came to the state to rally his supporters.
“It’s a phenomenal crowd, only topped by the number of people outside that didn’t get in,” Trump told more than 12,000 at the North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center just a day before the Democratic primary.
“If anybody would like to give up where you’re standing or your seat, please raise your hand,” he joked.
Outside the Coliseum, energized Trump supporters were tailgating and selling Trump merchandise, ranging from pins and posters to tarps and scarves while waiting in long lines to enter the venue. In anticipation of the president’s arrival, supporters danced and sang along to classic hits such as “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John and “Beat It” by Michael Jackson.
As Trump arrived on stage, cell phones started clicking, signs shot up and many on the floor appeared to shed tears of joy.
“It’s nice to see that it’s not just what you see on TV, where it’s older generations coming out to support him, but that younger generations are here and taking a stand. … It’s nice to see the support there,” said Shelby Sexton, a 21-year-old political science student.
Trump warned about the “fake news” media and the disinformation he said was being spread about him. Cheers and chants erupted whenever Trump condemned the news.
“I watch the news every day, but I think it’s very biased toward Democrats,” said Shanno McLaughlin, a stay-at-home mom who attended the rally with her daughter.
Trump’s speech touched on the coronavirus, the Space Force and the Academy Awards. But he also urged those attending to vote in the Democratic primary in an effort to choose a candidate they think he can most easily defeat in November. South Carolina’s open primary allows voters of any party to cast ballots; The Washington Post said its exit polls showed that about 5% of those who voted self-identified as Republican.
“Vote for Bernie!” several audience members fired back.