MOBILE, Ala. — In what one attendee referred to as “something between a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and the Daytona 500,” tens of thousands of Donald J. Trump supporters flocked to Ladd-Peebles Stadium in August of 2015 for the largest event of the Republican presidential primary. Fifteen months later, President-elect Trump is set to return to the exact same venue as part of his “USA Thank You Tour 2016.”
Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg Politics reported on MSNBC’s “With All Day Respect” that Trump’s tour, which kicks off Thursday evening in Ohio, will be going “to places that mean something to Donald Trump and to his campaign.”
“It’s not just going to go to swing states,” she said. “We know the schedule, it was given to us for planning purposes but hasn’t been released publicly yet. One place they’re going to go is Mobile, Alabama, which is a place that is really special for Trump and his campaign. They attracted 30,000 people there last summer. It was a symbolic moment for them when they really realized they had a movement going on and could take this somewhere.”
The date for the event has not been confirmed, but it is expected to come in the next couple of weeks.
Trump’s last trip to Mobile was a stunning show of populist might at a time when prevailing wisdom was that he would be a political shooting star, shining brightly before quickly burning out.
At an early stage of the campaign, while most candidates were flying commercial and traversing the country on buses, the first sign of Trump’s presence in The Port City was the silhouette of “Trump Force One,” the billionaire real estate mogul’s private Boeing 757.
Ever the showman, Mr. Trump directed the jet’s pilot to perform a flyover of the stadium before landing at the nearby airport. Every major media outlet in the country was there to capture the mayhem.
Trump was preceded on stage by a host of local and state elected officials who endorsed him before an anxious crowd. Then with anticipation reaching a fevered pitch, the man himself emerged, backed by “Sweet Home Alabama” blaring over the PA system.
“We have a great politician here,” Trump began. “We have a man here who really helped me. He was the one person I sought his counsel because he’s been so spot-on. He’s so highly respected. Has anyone ever heard of senator Jeff Sessions?”
The crowd erupted in applause and exploded when Sessions briefly donned a “Make America Great Again” hat before taking the mic.
“Donald, welcome to my hometown, Mobile, Alabama,” Sessions said as the crowed roared. “The American people — these people — want somebody in the presidency who stands up for them, defends their interests and the laws and traditions of this country. We welcome you here. Thank you for the work you have put into the immigration issue. I’m really impressed with your plan. I know it will make a difference. And this crowd shows a lot of people agree with that.”
Sessions stopped well short of endorsing Trump at the time — he would not make that official for another six months — but it was clear the senator was pleased to see the immigration ideas he had long espoused being a major plank in the Trump policy platform.
Trump heaped praise on Sessions, noting the senator and his staff had advised him on his recently-released immigration plan. “We’re going to build a wall!” He declared, launching into his remarks.
The candidate then delivered an hour-long meandering speech — the kind that had been a staple of his campaign since he tossed his prepared remarks aside when first announcing his candidacy just two months prior.
“We have politicians that don’t have a clue,” declared Trump. “They’re all talk, no action. What’s happening to this country is disgraceful.”
Trump’s decision to hold an event in Mobile raised some eyebrows at the time. South Alabama is not typically a hotbed of national politics. But talking heads later acknowledged the Trump campaign’s savvy maneuver.
Several southern states, including Alabama, had teamed up to hold their primaries on March 1 in the so-called SEC primary. By banding together, the South was positioned to be much stronger force in the nominating process. Trump’s stadium event was a statement that he was going to play to win in the South, where many rock-ribbed conservatives were attracted to his tough talk on immigration and trade. It ultimately paid off, as Trump swept every one of Alabama’s 67 counties and steamrolled across the South.
Trump fittingly exited the stage in Mobile to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” before making his way back to his plane in typical Trump fashion — a giant motorcade of black Cadillacs.
Flash forward to December of 2016 and President-elect Trump is poised to return to Alabama once again, presumably with Sen. Sessions — and perhaps a few more Alabamians — by his side, and tens of thousands of supporters celebrating his historic win.