More than 1,000 people gathered to greet Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Weirs Community Center in Laconia Thursday night -- though only half of them actually made it inside. Although the event reached capacity more than an hour before its start time, nearly all who traveled to the event stuck around to see Trump.
Like many Trump supporters, Bill Biscan of Laconia pointed to one quality that sets the candidate apart from most of the 15 others in the GOP race. “He is not a politician and he makes money rather than spends money,” Biscan said, who along with his wife had to sit outside despite showing up nearly two hours early.
Many who attended the rally voiced similar opinions. Steve Patient of Manchester said, “He is not a politician, he is a businessman – about time we get that.”
And Thursday’s rally made it clear that Trump does not want to run his campaign like a typical politician.
When the candidate finally arrived, he was greeted like a celebrity, with the crowd parting as he strutted toward the community center's entrance as though on a red carpet. The hundreds who came out to see him chanted his name, snapping selfies -- some even climbing on the roof to get a clear shot of him.
And after he walked through the outpouring of people outside and took the stage, Trump definitely didn’t talk like a politician either -- a quality that supporters raised again and again last night.
“The guy is honest, doesn’t sugar coat it and tells it like it is,” said Nick Davis of Sanbornton.
Steve Mahoney of Laconia agreed. “I like the way he talks, he says what a lot of people think and then when he catches heat for it he doesn’t back down on it, he actually doubles up on it; where a lot of politicians try to weasel their way out of it,” Mahoney said.
Unlike the rest of the GOP field, Trump is largely paying for his campaign out of pocket. That's something that allows him to speak without fear of consequences, said Henry Yip of Laconia.
“It’s so nice that someone is free to speak their mind and not bound by the fake rules of political correctness. And he is not bought out nobody owns him,” Yip said.
Trump, who is currently leading in many national polls, is running on the slogan “Make American great again,” an idea he expressed many times throughout his speech.
“We are in such trouble if we don’t take our country back, we are going to take it back big,” he said among loud cheers.
That theme struck a chord with many voters, like Lori Kennedy of Gilford.
“I like that he cares about America, that he is one that can turn America around. He wants to bring the jobs back here. He wants to make the American dream real again, achievable again for the young people,” said Kennedy who wore a “Made in America” t-shirt to the rally.
Diane Claire of Chester said Trump’s decades of business expertise qualify him to move the country forward.
“He has made $9 billion – what more do I need to say?" Claire said. "He did that by employing American people. We need someone to balance the budget, someone who knows the difference of what is going out and what is coming in."
But some, like Scott Gage of Alton, worry Trump’s appeal with voters is not enough to get him into office.
“I think he will have a very hard time, it is tough to get elected, there is more to it than just us wanting him here, there is a whole machine. They will end up with a Hillary versus Jeb Bush,” Gage said.
This is not the first time Trump has skirted with the idea of running for president, and some question his commitment to the race. But 88-year-old Phyllis Veazey of Laconia says Trump is not to be discounted.
“I don’t think he is a joke anymore, I think he genuinely cares and believes very strongly in what he is saying. It is not a joke anymore,” she said, adding that she hopes Trump stays in the race.
But with the New Hampshire primary more than six months away, it’s too early to gage whether this recent buzz around Trump will last.