Aug. 22 2016 08:35 AM

Rally attendees explain the appeal of the Republican presidential nominee

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GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks Friday in Dimondale.
Todd Heywood/City Pulse

MONDAY, Aug. 22 — Patti Christmas, of Eaton Rapids and Tim Kepler, of Charlotte, stood in the parking lot in front of the Summit in Dimondale Friday, greeting each law enforcement officer that walked by. Kepler shook hands; Christmas shook hands and offered hugs.

Eaton Rapids resident Patti Christmas offers a hug to Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich, Charlotte resident Tim Kepler looks on.
Todd Heywood/City Pulse

In the background, hundreds of Donald Trump supporters punctuated the scene with chants of “Blue lives matter” and “Lock her up.”

Both Eaton county residents support the billionaire and believe the media is “twisted.”

“There have been many times his words have been taken out of context,” Christmas said. “You know what? We need someone who is going to speak to us.”

And what exactly do the two hear from Trump?

“He’s here for our kids,” Kepler said. “Our kids’ country. He wants them to have a future.”

Christmas believes Trump’s experience as a businessman feeds his capacity to “create jobs.” She’s also convinced Trumps tough talk on crime issues in America — something he has been accused of manipulating with demonstrably false data — and clamping down on the border will protect America.

“He’s a big businessman. He’s one of the smartest businessmen in the world,” Kepler said. “If you had a business and you wanted someone to run it for you, would you pick Donald or Hillary? That’s what I’m saying. He’s even said he knows all these tax breaks so they can go overseas.”

Kepler acknowledges that Trump has used those overseas tax breaks for his own good.

“What better person to change — to know how to fix something — than someone who has used it?” Kepler said.

Christmas greeted that observation with an “amen.”

Dario Bongiorni and Cole Pierce, both of Grand Ledge, set-up in the media only parking area with a cooler full of America beer — Budweiser’s summer branding. (In 2008, Anheuser-Busch was purchased by InBev, a beer conglomerate based in Belgium and Brazil.)

These two young men from Grand Ledge enjoy some America (Budweiser's summer branding) while sporting "Hillary for prison" T-shirts.
Todd Heywood/City Pulse

“We support Trump and we wanted to show some love for the nation,” said Bongiorni, leaning on the trunk of a car. “He stands for a lot of things I care about.”

He said America needs to focus on its own issues before addressing the problems of the world.

“We help everybody else out. It’s time for us to get back to our roots,” Bongiorni said. “Have a strong military. Be able to make the people who live in America feel safe again.”

Asked if he felt unsafe, he said he did not right now.

“If Hillary gets elected president and takes our weapons from us, then yes, I would feel very unsafe,” he said. “She’s trying to abolish the Second Amendment.”

When he was pushed on the fact that doing so would require a significant amount of votes to repeal the amendment, Charlotte resident Ed Fitzgerald, who was listening to the interview, interjected.

“One small step at time,” he said.

Bongiorni agreed, noting the calls for bans on assault weapons following recent mass shootings in the U.S.

Former LCC professor Jerry Roe, 80, was present at the rally as well.

“This is my 65th year as a Republican activist,” he said, noting that he will cast his ballot for Trump.

Still, he acknowledged the race has been “bizarre.”

“More than bizarre,” said Roe. “It’s how Trump talks. He can win this, but he has got to start calming down a little bit. Trump has a personality, and he got a great start on this, but you can’t keep going out everyday making these statements.”