West Columbia, SC (WLTX) - President Donald Trump touted his friend Henry McMaster's bid for reelection as South Carolina governor---and took jabs at late night talk show hosts, the media, Democrats and Canada--during a rally in South Carolina Monday night.
The President spoke for about an hour inside the gymnasium at Airport High School in West Columbia, a relatively small venue packed with raucous supporters. "I don't work gymnasiums any more," Trump said jokingly to the crowd, but explained he had to support McMaster, so he came anyway.
People stood outside for hours while the heat index reached triple digits for the chance to get inside the gym, located about a 1.4 miles from Columbia Metropolitan Airport, where Trump arrived. The first few got there around 8 a.m. By noon, a line stretch down one side of the building.
They had to wait a little longer than they hoped: severe thunderstorms delayed the President's arrival, as Air Force One was forced to circle the airport for nearly an hour while it waited for the storms to clear. "It was a little rocky up in the sky," Trump explained.
But once he landed, Trump delivered what his supporters have come to expect: a full-throated defense of his policies, and jabs at some of his favorite targets.
"Sometimes you have to toot your own horn," Trump said, as he talked about his accomplishments. He pointed to his recent negotiations with North Korea and the new tariffs that he says will narrow the trade gap between the U.S. and its rivals and allies.
He touched on the heated immigration debate, blaming Democrats for the current stalemate.
"They want open borders, they want anybody, including MS-13 gang members, coming into our country," Trump said. "They want to protect illegals coming into our country much more than they want to protect you and that's not where we're coming from."
He referred to the much of the media as "fake news," brought up Hillary Clinton (which led to a chant of 'lock her up'), and trumpeted the recent primary loss of Mark Sanford, who lost his seat in the U.S. House, in large part because the Republican made remarks critical of the President. "I can't stand that guy," Trump said of the former two-term governor of South Carolina.
(Trump did take a break from his remarks to offer support for Katie Arrington, who beat Sanford in the primary. Arrington was seriously injured in a car accident over the weekend).
But it wasn't just about politics. As he often does, President Trump talked entertainment. He quoted film director David Lynch's recent comments which were favorable to him, and ripped into late-night talk show hosts, calling one of them a "lowlife" another a "no talent," and taking Jimmy Fallon to task for apologizing for his appearance on "The Tonight Show" in 2016.
But there was, of course, the purpose of the event itself: to bolster support for the current governor of the Palmetto State. He praised McMaster, who's in a runoff Tuesday with John Warren for the GOP nomination for South Carolina governor.
Both men beat out three other contenders to get to Tuesday's primary runoff. McMaster is a longtime figure in South Carolina politics, previously serving as State Republican Party Chairman, state attorney general, and lieutenant governor.
Warren, an Upstate businessman and former Marine, is seeking office for the first time. Just a few months ago, few people statewide had heard his name. But an aggressive and well-funded ad campaign allowed him to jump past other Republican rivals including Catherine Templeton, who'd held cabinet level positions in the state, and current Lt. Governor Kevin Bryant.
For Trump, there isn't a choice: it's McMaster.
"Get your a--es out and vote," he implored the cheering crowd, telling them to support the incumbent.
In the primary held earlier this month, McMaster got 42 percent of the vote, while Warren received 28 percent. Both Bryant and Templeton endorsed Warren after they were defeated in the primary.
Trump's visit is in many ways a thank you from the President to McMaster. In early February of 2016, McMaster, then the lieutenant governor, was the first statewide politician to throw his support behind Trump's presidential bid. The governor at the time, Nikki Haley, supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, as did U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.
"He's a man who truly was with me from the beginning, there's no doubt about it," Trump said.
At the time of McMaster's endorsement, some political insiders thought the move risky, but when Trump easily carried the state's presidential primary later that month, it gave McMaster an inside track into the support from the man who who would go on to win the White House. Since then, Trump has rewarded McMaster for that support, inviting him to a dinner at the White House, and lending his name to campaign commercials and using his powerful Twitter account platform to urge people to vote for McMaster.
"We will make America wealthy, we will make America strong, we will make America safe, and we will make America great again," President Trump said as he closed out his remarks.