Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

Donald Trump skates into Valdosta, after black students escorted out

Valdosta, Ga. -- Donald Trump rolled into southern Georgia tonight, riding high.

A new WSB-TV poll had the billionaire with a widening lead in the Peach State ahead of Super Tuesday, with the backing of 39 percent of likely Republican voters, 19 percentage points ahead of second place finisher Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Not only that, but a recent CNN poll of GOP voters nationally put him at 49 percent support, an eye-popping 33 percentage points ahead of Rubio, his closest challenger.

It was a fact Trump flaunted to the more than 7,500 supporters in attendance here at Valdosta State University.

“Every single online poll, every single event I’ve been No. 1,” he said.

The New Yorker drew an enthusiastic and at times rowdy crowd to the university’s basketball stadium. He was met with deafening cheers from the audience, which held up signs saying “build that wall” and “the silent majority stands with Trump.” It cheered so loudly when Trump said he would scrap Obamacare and Common Core that the bleachers shook.

At least another 12,000 supporters were outside, he said, unable to get into the event.

Trump asked for the crowd’s support Tuesday and promised a strong showing.

“We are going to win at every single level. We are going to win with health, with education, at the borders, with our military. We’re going to win, win, win, win,” he said.

Trump otherwise delivered his stump speech, touching on immigration, free trade, his business record, guns and the Pope.

He drew fans from central and southern Georgia, as well as some Floridians and curious VSU students.

Trump’s “powerful” persona is what’s been driving such large levels of support, said Lorra Baccili, 54-year old union laborer from Perry.

“He is a powerful individual. His strength in his voice speaks for the country,” she said.

Lori Tompkins from Turner County, who assists medical patients without insurance, said Georgians in particular are flocking to the billionaire because of his business savvy.

“He’s helping us stand up for our country again, to try and improve business. Georgia, especially this part of Georgia, is an extremely poor area and we would love to see manufacturing come back to this country, especially here in Georgia,” she said.

The rally also drew its share of anti-Trump protestors, who were roped off across the street from the venue. The crowd inside the building booed a protestor Trump kicked out of the event. The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs also reported that upwards of two-dozen black VSU students were kicked out of the rally.

From the USA Today account of the same incident:

About 30 black students who were standing silently at the top of the bleachers at Donald Trump’s rally here Monday night were escorted out by Secret Service agents who said the presidential candidate had requested their removal before he began speaking.

 The sight of the students, who were visibly upset, being led outside by law enforcement officials created a stir at a university that was a whites-only campus until 1963.

 “We didn’t plan to do anything,” said a tearful Tahjila Davis, a 19-year-old mass media major, who was among the Valdosta State University students who was removed. “They said, 'This is Trump’s property; it’s a private event.' But I paid my tuition to be here.”

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.