BLUFFTON, South Carolina – Don Budlong is a Vietnam War veteran who served from 1968 to 1970, while Sen. John McCain was a prisoner of war. He’s also a big fan of Donald Trump.
“He’s a no BS kinda guy, he just tells it like it is,” he told msnbc. “If you’re offended, vote for somebody else.”
As for Trump’s controversial remarks about McCain – who Trump said wasn’t a war hero, before quickly walking back the remarks – well, Budlong said, they were probably taken out of context.“I agree with him wholeheartedly. John McCain has done nothing for veterans,” he said. “John McCain drove me away from the Republican Party when he ran in 2008. Trump brought me home.”
Budlong said he was impressed with Trump’s national security views and the fact that his wealth meant he wasn’t beholden to special interests.
“He wants to close the border,” he said. “[Mexicans] are coming across, ISIS is coming across, and other Arabian country jihadists are infiltrating the country unabated and Obama doesn’t care – I think he put the welcome mat out.”
Budlong wasn’t the only supporter at the Trump rally Tuesday in South Carolina who said the billionaire businessman’s views on immigration and national security were impressive.
“Being an immigrant here, I’m definitely excited about his ideas on immigration,” Dawn Eigenmann told msnbc. “I came in 1948, we had to have a visa, had to go through medical exams to get on the plane to get over here and so for me the big thing right now is his ideas on immigration and how he’s going to fix it.”
Many presidential candidates come to Sun City, a retirement community in a key early voting state – another contender, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is slated to speak here next week – but few bring the same celebrity as Trump.
“I want to see the hair in the flesh!” Helene Humber told msnbc on Tuesday morning. She waited five hours to see the tycoon-turned-Republican presidential candidate. “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything. He says what everyone’s thinking!”
“No ticket for the circus, I live five minutes away,” Charlie Carney said while waiting in line to enter. “What else am I going to do being retired on a day like today?”
Trump didn’t disappoint: Five hours after attendees began to queue, the former reality television star took the stage and delivered a bombastic speech in which he trashed his opponents, mocked American diplomats, and even read off the cell phone number of the state’s longtime Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, who Trump derided repeatedly in the speech.The audience cheered “the Donald’s” antics as he boasted of his wealth and success. They called Graham as instructed – he didn’t pick up, one attendee reported back – and laughed at Trump’s sarcastic impression of Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s fans all said they liked his honesty, his bluntness and candor. Still, many acknowledged that his remarks last weekend in Iowa – when he said Sen. John McCain was only a war hero because he’d been captured, before saying his remarks were misconstrued – were out of line.
“It was cruel, unnecessary really,” Eigenmann said.
“He goes overboard sometimes,” Diane Donio admitted.
But several fans also said they agreed with Trump, even if the didn’t like his remarks about McCain.
“What he actually said is true, he just should not have gone there,” Donio argued. “If you haven’t done something that gets you captured or shot, you’re not a hero, you would have been a veteran, but that has nothing to do with what’s going on, he shouldn’t have gone there.”