Trump super fan symbolizes South Carolina voters' Primary passion
Each one of Yates's Donald Trump dolls is autographed on the back of the box. The doll features a pull string that, when pulled, plays Trump's famous phrase from the show The Apprentice.
Vendors outside the Florence Civic Center sold a wide range of merchandise including hats, pins, scarves, blankets, and even copies of Time magazine that mentioned Trump on the cover.
By Colin Demarest
On his head, he wore his signature sombrero, and in his arms, he cradled a plastic Donald Trump doll.
Jim Yates, 69, showed up to a recent rally for the billionaire Republican presidential candidate at 9 a.m., 10 hours before Trump arrived, hoping to beat the lines and show his dedication to his candidate of choice.
Yates, a Vietnam veteran and lifelong Republican from Laurens, South Carolina, avidly supports Trump because he thinks the candidate is a “super guy who knows how to put people together.” He also believes Trump is outside the reaches of the “very corrupt group of politicians” that have “messed up the country.”
In terms of Donald Trump dolls, Yates has four. Each is autographed.
Trump’s visit to Gilbert on Jan. 27 marked Yate’s seventh political rally – each for Trump. Yates plans to attend every South Carolina rally in the run-up to the Feb. 20 primary.
Yates is a prime example of the passion South Carolina’s primary brings out of voters. As the “First in the South,” South Carolina is a key primary state – the third in the nation – and political pundits say it is an excellent measure of a candidate’s chances for nomination.
The South Carolina primary has accurately predicted the GOP nominee every election cycle since 1980, with the exception of 2012. With Trump leading in the latest S.C. polls, Yates hopes the state will deliver on this promise once again.
It’s hard to miss the irrepressible Yates, even among the exuberant crowds Trump draws.
He wears his over-sized sombrero, with crushed black velvet and gold rope accents, to symbolize the importance of legal immigration. That’s a hot-button that Trump relishes as he calls for the construction of a wall along the Mexico-U.S. border and the deportation of 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S.
“It’s in support of the Hispanics,” Yates said. “I wear it in support for people from Mexico that want to come here and do so legally.”
At the Gilbert rally, Yates made sure he got a front row spot, finally entering the barn where Trump would speak two and a half hours ahead of Trump’s entrance.
As the barn swelled with supporters, Yates waved his Trump doll around and raised his sombrero, getting in as many pictures as he possibly could. When the speakers started playing Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American,” Yates belted out every word.
When Trump took to the stage, Yates was star struck. Point by point, jab by jab, Trump interacted with the crowd and engaged them much like how a motivational speaker would. Yates nodded his head, clapped and screamed alongside his fellow Trump supporters.
Once Trump finished his speech, he trotted off stage and came across the front barricades and acknowledged Yates, grandfather of five, with a handshake.
“He’s seen me at every rally,” Yates said. “Hopefully he’ll invite me to the White House when he’s elected.
It’s these small interactions that have candidates leaving lasting impressions with native South Carolinians, according to Yates.
Candidates such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all laid their claims in South Carolina, hoping to topple Trump.
“We are a part of a big movement across our wonderful country,” Yates said. “Iowa isn’t the end. We – he will make America great again.”