They were there Tuesday, in the bowels of a casino near Valley Forge National Historical Park, some for their God and for the president they say their God has chosen. They were there for the money that they believe President Donald Trump has helped them earn and protect. But the real reason why 785 banquet chairs were filled with Women for Trump was to make sure that the women on the other side of the political aisle don’t get the last word next year.
They said they were there for Trump. But the Republican women who came to King of Prussia for the Trump campaign’s first women’s coalition rally were also there to block the Democratic women who have fueled a surge in voter turnout in local, state, and congressional races in Southeastern Pennsylvania since Trump’s election in 2016. If Republicans are to hold the state for Trump, their women must multiply.
Well, the GOP got their soldiers, all right.
While gamblers upstairs smoked and shot craps, the women downstairs were supercharged. No longer would they remain in the shadows, quietly loyal to a president whose polarizing rhetoric and policies pit neighbors against neighbors.
There was fire and brimstone imagery from in front of a stage backdrop of red and pink roses. And there was glee over recent infighting among Democrats, who, unlike Republicans, are fractured in vision and policy goals.
“He gets us. He’s not a politician, and he’s got a backbone,” said 59-year-old Susan Misey of New Castle County, Del., a retired public-school teacher who said she was attending her first campaign rally. “He’s not afraid to say what he thinks. And what he says is what the rest of us are thinking.”
A lifelong Republican, Misey had previously made a single small donation to the Trump campaign. The mother of three boys retired early because of cancer treatments. But well before that, she said, the Obama years were the hardest financially for her family.
Her husband, a driver for Schmidt Baking Co., was cut off from a staff job. He became an independent contractor. The house they bought at market peak in 2005 for $305,000 had fallen in value because of the stock market crash under Republican George W. Bush. They were underwater. She blames Obama, Bush’s successor, for all of it.
“As soon as Trump came in, the economy thrived and we were able to sell our house,” she said, “and get out of the red.”
There was blood-red conviction throughout this ballroom. I spoke with no one who offered so much as an olive branch to centrism.
A soft-spoken Doylestown grandmother told me she voted in 1960 for Democrat John F. Kennedy, but switched to Ronald Reagan in 1980 as she and her husband, a top executive at a publicly traded company, were raising their children. She and her daughter, who was seated next to her, had been afraid to even turn out for their first Trump rally, she said, given the raw anger between followers of the two parties under this Trump era of unfiltered and arguably offensive tweets.
But she — and others — seemed now ready to take that chance to keep their man in office: “I came to show,” said Joan Conover, 79, a granddaughter of Irish immigrants whose father ran a bar on Sixth and Dauphin Streets in North Philadelphia, “that there are women who do like him.”
I spoke to another retired teacher, this one from Montgomery County, who asked to remain anonymous but who said she adored Trump despite coming from a profession whose union has worked closely with Democrats to ensure strong teacher pay and retirement benefits. She was there with a Wayne-area woman whose husband had been a salesman.
Afterward, I had a long talk with two born-again sisters from Berks and Chester Counties. Their father had been a pastor. They spoke of Trump as God’s chosen leader. They felt the world was on the path toward the Second Coming of Christ. They said the Scripture-rich opening prayer at the casino had seemed tailored for a crowd of fellow evangelicals.
“We block every demonic network in the name of Jesus,” said Florida megachurch pastor Paula White in helping convene the two-hour-long session.
The message, from Trump family and top officials with his reelection campaign, was for these women to talk to church friends and neighbors about voting for Trump next year.
Several women asked what I thought. I said I am frightened for the country. That this is how civil wars begin and loved ones die — when countries become dangerously divided like this, and everyone thinks they are right.
“What we are witnessing in our country is so important, and is really the turning point in our country,” Trump daughter-in-law Lara Trump had told the crowd.
I couldn’t agree more — but for hardly the same reason.