The Grand Old Party Frontrunners Visit Alabama

Aug 31, 2015

            For years, Alabama was a “flyover” state for candidates seeking the presidency. That is, until recently. Within the past two weeks, the Yellowhammer State has been a popular destination for the seeking the Republican nomination.

            “You know I represent the state of Texas, we’ve got twelve hundred miles of border with Mexico, and we see firsthand the consequences of illegal immigration…”

            Texas Senator Ted Cruz spoke to reporters before taking part in the annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner hosted by the Tuscaloosa County GOP. Cruz talked about his hard stance on illegal immigration and his work with one of Alabama’s senators…

            “I stood shoulder to shoulder with Alabama’s own Jeff Sessions and the two of us, we defeated that amnesty program in congress. And I would note, of the other republican congressional candidates, they were not to be found in that fight.”

             Cruz is one of several in the expansive Republican field running for president. He says the election season will start off with votes in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina but then the other southern states will get their turn…

            “States all across the south, including Alabama, they’re calling it the SEC Primary.”

            He goes on to say the South will act as a crucible to determine who the true conservative candidate is…

            “States across the south are going to play a critical role in ensuring that the next republican nominee is a true and genuine conservative. Not another one of these campaign conservatives, every time we nominate a candidate who runs as “Democrat-lite” we lose.”

            While Senator Ted Cruz’ speech helped make the Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Tuscaloosa a sold out event, it did not even come close to what another candidate did in Mobile.

            Thousands of people came to hear the current G-O-P frontrunner at Ladd-Peebles Stadium…

Supporters of Donald Trump at a rally in Mobile
Credit Stan Ingold

            “We had a hotel and were going to have about 250 or 300 people and the hotel was great, they called us said “something is happening we can’t hold this here,” so we went to convention center and they can have ten thousand people, and we were set and we were excited and the next day they said “too many people” we can’t put them in…”

            Supporters of the New York businessman filled over half of the stadium to support Donald Trump. The billionaire developer and reality show host wasn’t alone in Mobile, elected officials from across Alabama came to stand with “the Donald…”

            “My name is Ed Henry, I’m a state representative from north Alabama, we traveled five hours to get here so I could give Donald Trump my endorsement. 2016!”

            Trump’s event in Mobile clearly overshadowed Ted Cruz’ visit to Tuscaloosa. However, there is one thing that both rallies had in common. Or rather, one name…

            “We have a great politician here, we have a man here, who really helped me, he was one person I sought his council because he’s been so spot on, he is so highly respected. Has anyone heard of Senator Jeff Sessions?”

            Alabama’s junior U.S. Senator joined Trump on stage and conveyed the thoughts of many of those in attendance …

            “The American people, these people, want someone who stands up for them. Defends their interests, and the laws and traditions of this country…”

            Sessions went on to praise Trump’s ideas on illegal immigration, but what Trump talked about more than that was the current state of the country…

            “There’s no spirit, there’s no jobs, there no anything. We are going to take this country; I am going to be the greatest jobs president God ever created. I will tell you, I will tell you that…”

            Before Trump’s arrived in his private 757 jet, the line of well-wishers wrapped around the stadium. This is where we found Rebecca Hood of Mobile. She says she likes the businessman’s personality and that has her interested…

            “He’s plain spoken, he tells it like it is and he doesn’t pull any punches.”

            Hood says as of right now Trump has her vote…

            ‘I’m actually planning on it now; everything I see about him makes me more interested in supporting him.”

                        A little farther back in line was Kelly Scott, also from Mobile. She says its Trump’s out of the box approach that has her interested as well…

            “He’s interesting, he’ll say anything, he’ll do anything and he’s just blunt, he’s honest, he’s not the cookie cutter politician that you normally see.”

            It is the vote of Alabamians like Hood and Scott that the candidates are hoping to land.  In the past couple of weeks Alabama has been quite popular. Ohio’s Governor John Kasich visited to accept the endorsement of Governor Robert Bentley. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was the keynote speaker at the Alabama Republican Party's summer luncheon. Retired Neurosurgeon Ben Carson was in Montgomery. And Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has been endorsed by former Governor Bob Riley, visited Birmingham.

            Terry Lathan is the Chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party. She says Alabama can be a crown jewel for anyone seeing the G-O-P nomination…

            “We feel very strongly that they understand the pathway to the presidency, if you’re the Republican nominee is the south. Alabama has been named by USA Today as the reddest state in the nation. You can’t be a serious presidential candidate and not come through Alabama.”

            Lathan says the large field of Republican candidates is actually a good thing for Alabama voters…

            “People will eventually begin lining up with someone they feel comfortable with, someone the feel articulates how that person feels. I would rather give them a whole slew of choices than just a handful of not so good choices.”

            And a whole slew of choices is exactly what the voters in Alabama have to look forward to.  With the primary moved up to early March, it is quite possible Alabama can expect to see repeat and first time visits from the large field of candidates hoping to square off against the Democratic nominee next fall.