New Jersey welcomed the US President on Tuesday with a tailgate party. Donald Trump's rally was celebrated in the state by the population the same way New York Jets celebrates the native son Bruce Springsteen.
With the cold weather came hundreds of supporters with their lawn chairs and tents waving the 'Trump 2020' flag. The dogs were in a pro-Trump bandana and had the red cap on which was decorated with the Republican's distinctive coiffure.
John Felon a parks and recreation employee from Monmouth County said that he showed up at 5.30 AM, which was more than 12 hours before the President's arrival. He also said that it was very family-like. The Jersey Shore beach town of Wildwood, normally nearly empty in January, was abuzz with restaurants and hotels packed despite the chilly temperature.
Fenlon said the scene "sort of" felt like a tailgate party with two important caveats: "Not as many drunk people. ... And there are not two teams. There's only one team."
Trump's campaign rallies through the first three years of his administration have largely have been set in states he won in 2016. While he has been a regular visitor to New Jersey, which he lost by a 14-point margin, to stay at his golf club, Tuesday night's rally was his first in the state.
Supporters lined the streets of Wildwood to greet the president's motorcade as it approached the Wildwoods Convention Center, wrapped in blankets and chanting "U-S-A".
Some started lining up as early as Sunday. Many who could not gain entrance to the convention center, which holds about 7,000, watched on big screens outside.
Trump was coming in part to reward U.S. Representative Jeff Van Drew, who left the Democratic Party last month in protest over Trump's impeachment. Van Drew's election as a Democrat in November 2018 marked a brief change in the conservative southern New Jersey district that had elected Republicans to Congress for the previous quarter-century.
"Jeff had the guts to defy the left-wing fanatics in his own party and to stand tall in defense of our Constitution, our freedom and democracy," Trump said before bringing Van Drew on stage.
The welcome was not uniform in a state where Springsteen, New Jersey's beloved rock star, described Trump in a 2019 television interview as "somebody who I feel doesn't have a grasp of the deep meaning of what it means to be an American."
Progressive activist group Cape May County Indivisible held a "Trump: You are not welcome here" rally at the site but its presence was small.
Kevin Camp, a 27-year-old heavy equipment operator, said he was glad to see Trump visit his hometown, having "seen every Trump rally on TV".
"This is the first one I've actually attended," said Camp, who had spent two days waiting for the rally with his girlfriend, Heather Karrer, 25. "We live 10 minutes away and we never thought he would actually be this close."
(With inputs from agency)