'He is able to connect with me' C.R. crowd satisfied with what Trump had to say

CEDAR RAPIDS — Mary Waddell didn’t drive over from Davenport to learn something new or hear promises from President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

She watches the news and knows what the president has done and where he stands. She just came to see him in person.

“I came to get excited — get excited about the United States,” said Waddell, 65. “Get excited about America. We should all be getting excited about our country.”

A raucous rally that felt akin to a rock ‘n’ roll concert at the U.S. Cellular Center greeted Trump in his first visit to Iowa as president. Earlier in the day, Trump toured Kirkwood Community College.

Trump was last in Cedar Rapids for a rally at the McGrath Amphitheatre shortly before the election, on Oct. 28, 2016, and he held a “thank you” event in Des Moines on Dec. 8, 2016, after he was elected but before his inauguration.

Trump hit familiar refrains, railing against the media and the swamp in Washington, D.C., while touting his effort to make environmental regulations more friendly to farmers and boost American energy production. The crowd broke into a frenzy at several points, and Trump had playful interactions with some of his fans.

“He connects with people off the street,” said Renee Scheuerlein, 56, of Cedar Rapids. “That’s why he is the president, and Hillary Clinton isn’t. He was raised with a silver spoon, and he still is able to connect with me.”


Sunshine Pennington, 32, traveled from Chicago with her daughters Morgan, 9, and Georgia, 11, to see Trump in person. A rally in Chicago last year was canceled for safety reasons.

“It was filled with heart,” Pennington said in describing the speech, noting she most appreciated Trump’s commitment to veterans since her husband served for 12 years in the military.

Michael Smith, 51, of Burlington, described the atmosphere as “optimistic, hopeful — everything Obama promised but didn’t deliver.”

“As a businessman, when you want to do something, you get it done,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way in politics. I’d love to hear him say he is humbled by this job.”

Tom Barr, 73, of West Liberty, said he admired Trump’s show of “tenacity and strength, and his ability to continue to go for his goals and not be deterred by the media.”

“Every single issue he hit on is important to me,” Barr said. “We’ve needed someone like this for a long time.”

Trump spoke for 70 minutes to a nearly full house of around 6,000 people, according to staff estimates. A massive American flag hung high above as a backdrop, and supporters waved “Make America Great Again,” “Promises Kept” and “Drain the Swamp” signs. One man held up a homemade sign stating “Fake News.”

“There’s no more dynamic speaker than President Donald Trump,” Ginger McQueen, of DeKalb, Ill., said.


Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann teed up the boisterous crowd, skewering CNN and then The Gazette for a front-page “open letter” to Trump criticizing him for holding rallies around the country.

“That’s bush league,” Kaufmann said, while the crowd roared.

The crowd was strongly pro-Trump, although a dozen protesters, locking arms, were escorted out early in the speech after a coordinated whistle. The event had no further protests.

A Hillary Clinton supporter, John Haman of Iowa City, quietly attended the rally. While having his photo taken in the emptying arena, he said he “just wanted to experience” seeing the president. Despite brief cries from the crowd to “lock her up,” sitting among Trump supporters had been uneventful, he said.

“It was civil. It wasn’t hateful or anything like that,” Haman said. “That’s Iowa for you though. Iowans keep it civil and respectful.”

Jay Keniston, 39, of Washington, Iowa, described the crowd as “packed and energetic.”

“It’s a great thing he can come here and explain stuff to us, and what his next moves are,” Keniston said, noting he was most interested “to know when he is going to build the wall.”

“Just let him do his job, but they are not letting him,” Keniston added, noting by “they” he means the country.

Trump’s anti-abortion stance most energized Bob Cook, who said this was his first political rally. He made a six-hour round trip from Wisconsin with his wife, Ronda Cook.


“I felt very patriotic,” Ronda Cook said. “That’s what I liked about it. I feel like my patriotism has come back.”

Outside, as Trump supporters walked out of the venue and into scattered protesters, Nick Molo of Dubuque said he wanted to attend the rally to show Trump that people are still with him.

“It’s almost like he’s looking for feedback from us,” said Molo, wearing an oversized cowboy hat with “#TPIN” printed on the side — Trump Pence in November. “He’s trying to do what people want, not just what the inside establishment wants.”

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