Voters in Macon await the arrival of President Donald Trump as he stumps for Republican gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp. Hyosub Shin/hyosub.shin@ajc.com

Thousands flock to Macon for Trump rally supporting Kemp

MACON — As the temperature hovered around 70 degrees in Macon, thousands of Georgians roared when President Donald Trump took the stage in an airport hangar to express his support of the Republican nominee for governor, Brian Kemp. 

The crowd that fought long lines and unseasonably warm temperatures came to life after Air Force One touched down and Trump emerged from the presidential airplane. 

Trump urged voters at Middle Georgia Regional Airport on Sunday to cast their ballots for Kemp, calling it “one of the most important elections of our lifetime” — though not as important as his in 2016. 

Kemp will “protect your jobs, defend your borders, fight for your values and continue to make America great again,” Trump said, drawing raucous cheers. 

A vote for Kemp, he said, was a vote for him.

For many, it was the first time they got to see the president in person. That he was there to stump for Kemp was just icing on the cake. 

Snellville resident Pam Eigel said she got up at 6 a.m. to head to Macon. 

“I’m here to support Kemp — and of course to see the president,” she said. “I want to keep the momentum going (for Republicans).” 

Kemp is heading toward Election Day with polls showing him in a close race with Democrat Stacey Abrams. Kemp is counting on Trump to motivate those who didn’t cast their ballots during the early-voting period to make sure they get to the polls Tuesday. 

“Having President Trump here today is going to give us the momentum we need to win big on Election Day,” Kemp said. 

Pam Ausman, a Newnan resident who said she’s attended more than a dozen Trump rallies, including his presidential inauguration, has driven across Georgia and much of the Southeast in a tour bus wrapped in Trump 2020 signs. 

Ausman said she doesn’t trust the polls that show Kemp and Abrams in a statistical tie. 

“It’s just like the silent majority in 2016,” she said of Kemp’s chances on Tuesday. “Nobody thought (Trump) could win, and he did.” 

Supporters drove from across the state, some camping overnight to secure a good spot in line for the chance to see Trump in person. Dozens of discarded canvas folding chairs and an air mattress littered the long line leading to the rally. 

“If you don’t realize how big this crowd is, look behind you,” Gov. Nathan Deal told those in attendance. “They’re all the way back there on the tarmac.” 

Many at the Macon rally had already voted but couldn’t miss the opportunity to see Trump so close to home. 

“It’s not every day you get a chance to see the president,” Ashburn resident Blake Christian said. 

Christian said he supported Kemp before Trump endorsed Georgia’s secretary of state, but he said when he learned the president was backing Kemp, it cemented his vote. 

In the hours leading up to Trump’s speech, a crowd of Georgians — many in red “Make America Great Again” hats and shirts — sang along to a wide range of music from the Village People, Rihanna and Guns N’ Roses. 

The unseasonably warm November temperatures and cramped crowds proved to be too much for a few rally goers. Several were seen being taken out on stretchers by paramedics. 

Still, most supporters were in good spirits and passed the time waving signs stating “Promises Made, Promises Kept” and “Trump Endorses Kemp” and chanting “four more years” and “build that wall.” 

The excitement reached a fever pitch as Trump strode onto the stage, when supporters broke into chants of “USA.” 

Bryan Galante, a retired law enforcement officer from Senoia and a native New Yorker, said Trump appeals to his Empire State sensibilities. 

“He’s a straight shooter,” he said. “He’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind. He’s not politically correct. I think it’s something very enjoyable after years of people pulling their words.” 

Trump’s rally comes two days after former President Barack Obama stumped for Abrams in Atlanta, with both nominees hoping to energize their supporters. 

The Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, a former Georgia Tech and minor-league baseball player, summed up Trump’s visit.

“The other side brought their closer in on Friday, Barack Obama,” Duncan said, drawing loud boos from the crowd. “We’re bringing our closer in now: Donald J. Trump.” 

Tamar Hallerman contributed to this article.

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