LYNDEN, Washington — “Where the hell do you all come from?” Donald Trump asked the large, reportedly record-breaking crowd at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds Saturday.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee was making light of a roundabout route Trump's own campaign had to follow to avoid confrontation with agitators whose presence has become a fixture of the 2016 campaign.
Rioters have plagued Trump events throughout the spring, assaulting Trump supporters and attacking police at events in California, Illinois and other states. So Trump was taking no chances in this small, predominantly Dutch town that few outside of Washington state or British Columbia’s lower mainland had ever heard of.
Anti-Trump extremists did manage to shut down the Guide-Meridian, a main artery between Bellingham and Lynden by, among other things, chaining themselves to a ladder, leading to at least three arrests. But Trump’s Secret Service detail got around that roadblock by taking an alternate route.
The motorcade went out from the airport, up I-5 and into town through Birch Bay-Lynden road. That meant most of what the billionaire presidential hopeful saw on the way to the rally consisted of an Indian casino, a few gas stations, green open spaces and hundreds of thousands of trees.
What Trump saw when his SUV rolled behind the stage was a large, packed-to-bursting crowd from all over — Lynden and greater Whatcom County, but also Everett, Seattle, Tacoma and just over the border in Canada. Cops from all over Western Washington were thick on the ground — on foot, on bicycles, in squad cars and a SWAT truck.
Trump prefers to hold events at airport hangars to maximize ease of travel and cut down on other difficulties, including protests. The plan in Washington state had been to hold events first at the Spokane International Airport in Eastern Washington and then at a hangar of Boeing Field, near Seattle.
The plan fell through when local politicians refused to issue the necessary permits Wednesday. Although King County officials said they had not been given sufficient notice, State Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) pointed out that the county is the core of the Democratic Party in the Evergreen State and its government “is not very good to work with.”
Erickson deferred credit for moving the rally to this town of 13,000 just five miles from the Canadian border, but in response to AMI Newswire's shouted questions in the line at the event, he said Lynden is a “much nicer place” to hold a Trump rally than Seattle. Trump himself singled Erickson out with praise for his role in making the event happen.
Trump warmed the crowd up with flattery. He said his advisers had counseled that they could nix the trip to Washington in advance of the March 24 primary now that all of his opponents have stopped campaigning. “There’s no way I’m canceling!” the billionaire real estate investor said to cheers.
The unscripted remarks were part of Trump’s standard stump spiel, with new nuggets thrown in.
Trump recounted his primary victory against a very crowded field (“14, 15, 16 and here we are”); promised to build a wall at America’s southern border; pledged to negotiate smarter, better trade deals; and said his administration would stop Mexican heroin, which “costs less than candy,” from “poisoning our children.”
The candidate also promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, bring overseas jobs back to the United States, “cherish” the Second Amendment and avoid wars like the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Though the Republican standard-bearer had some words of conciliation for his former primary opponents, impolitic things still slipped out. Talking about Rick Perry’s recent endorsement, Trump recalled the time the former Republican governor had likened him to “cancer.”
He said Ben Carson, leading the Trump vice presidential search committee, got the campaign in “hot water” by suggesting they might choose a Democrat, “as if I don’t already have enough problems with Republicans!”
He attacked Democrats as well.
“Can you imagine another four years of the Clintons?” Trump asked, followed shortly by “Can you imagine another four years of Obama?” He savaged Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) for her past claims of Native American ancestry. Trump called John Kerry a “clown” and mocked the Secretary of State for breaking his leg in a bike accident last year.
He also engaged in some broad speculation about fading Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders. After listening to all the calls for him to bow out of the Democratic nomination race when he is still competitive in many primaries, Trump said, Sanders “must have hatred in his heart.
The crowd was receptive to the candidate’s cheer, laugh and boo lines. Unlike at many of his rallies, the speech at no point had to be halted for security to remove disruptive protesters.
In the long line to get in, a local elderly couple named John and Anne told AMI Newswire that they had gone to Trump’s hotel in Hawaii and had “salad and beer” at the restaurant there and were impressed with the place. Anne had written a message on the hotel coaster and hoped to pass the note along to Trump. Whether you agree or disagree with Trump, “he isn’t boring,” John said.
They may yet have other chances to be entertained in person by Trump. “I’m going to be back here a lot. We can win Washington state. We’re gonna win,” Trump promised.
The last time the state went Republican was in 1984. But apparently, looking out on the eager crowd in one of the most improbable places ever for a presidential rally, Trump liked his odds.