It had all the familiar trappings of a Donald Trump rally.
Vendors were walking around, braving the triple-digit heat in Fairfield, Connecticut, to sell buttons and the signature “Make America Great Again” hats to lines of excited supporters who periodically erupted into “lock her up” chants.
Except for one thing.
“I’ve never seen this many Republicans in one room before,” said Ted Woll of Greenwich, Connecticut.
The small New England state hasn’t voted for a Republican president since George H.W. Bush in 1988 and has been solidly blue in the 28 years since.
But in a move that confused veteran Republicans, Trump held a rally in Connecticut on Saturday, and the state’s Republicans were excited to see their nominee paying attention to them.
“He still cares,” Woll said.
Woll attended the evening rally with friends Alec Miller and Andrew Marinaccio, who added that they felt “safe” there. They usually don’t openly admit they’re Trump supporters, or even Republicans.
“It’s easier to avoid the conversation, or just say I’m not voting,” Miller said.
“I don’t want to say I’m a Republican in my neighbourhood,” Ashley Franco, of Bridgeport, said before pointing out that it made her “feel better” to be in a room in her state filled with party members.
“I only know two Republicans,” truck driver Mike Vacca Jr. said, gesturing to his father, Mike Vacca Sr. and friend Fred Parsons. “And my wife.”
Most supporters were hesitant to predict a Trump victory in Connecticut in November, especially because most of the people they knew were Democrats. But a probable loss in the state didn’t sour anyone’s mood, everyone was thrilled that a presidential candidate was in town.
Vacca Sr. looked around as crowds continued to pack into the gymnasium: “It’s about time a candidate cared enough to come here.”
For his part, Trump fired up the crowd.
“We are making a big move for the state of Connecticut … normally that wouldn’t happen because a Republican, in theory, doesn’t win Connecticut,” he promised.
The real estate mogul endeared himself to the packed room when he brought up General Electric’s January decision to move their headquarters from Fairfield to Boston — a sore sport with Connecticut voters.
“How did you lose General Electric?” Trump gaped.
The New York billionaire reminded his supporters of how much he’s dedicated to his campaign.
“Can you imagine how badly I’ll feel if I spent all of that money, all of this energy, all of this time, and lost?” he asked. “I will never ever forgive the people of Connecticut. I will never forgive the people of Florida, and Pennsylvania, and Ohio.”
“But I love them anyway,” the nominee quickly quipped.
Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, will be visiting Connecticut on Monday for a fundraiser in Greenwich. The starting price is $33,400 a plate.
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