BEMIDJI -- In light of President Trump's historic visit to Bemidji, set for Friday, Sept. 18, the Pioneer spoke with two community members -- each with differing political leanings -- to get their reaction on the town's involvement in the president's "Great American Comeback" tour.
Here is what they had to say.
William Smith: 'I can't even pretend to be a Trump supporter'
Bemidji resident William Smith has no desire to see President Trump on Friday.
During Smith’s visit to the Beltrami County Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party office on Monday afternoon, the 59-year-old expressed distaste toward the president and his upcoming visit to Bemidji, as well as concern over the rally’s safety amidst a persisting coronavirus pandemic.
“I don't want to be anywhere near this thing -- it's not healthy, it's just not healthy,” Smith said. “I keep seeing articles about rallies that are being held and not socially distanced. People aren't masked. I just think they're breeding grounds for COVID.”
Smith, who is self-employed, said he’s unsure how the presidential visit will affect the political climate on a local level.
“I don't know that it's going to make a huge difference locally (because) we kind of have split districts up here. We go one way, we go the other,” Smith said. “So I don't think he's got new supporters. I think he's just got rabid supporters.”
Smith went on to describe Trump’s inclusion of Bemidji on his Great American Comeback tour as “desperate.”
“He wants Minnesota. He's not even within the margin of error in the state of Minnesota, but he has support here that he doesn't have in the Twin Cities, which is half our state population,” Smith said. “So he's playing to his base. There's a lot of local supporters, but I think it's a sign of desperation, to be honest.”
While it's still unclear what themes the president will speak on during his tarmac stop at Bemidji Aviation Services, Smith said he anticipated the “same thing he says all the time: He's going to attack Joe Biden.”
“He's going to take credit for things that started before his term began and ignore all the things that have happened during his term, like terrible pandemic response and the economy,” Smith said. “The portrait he portrays of the economy is false. The stock market's doing well, but the stock market is not the economy."
“There's 40 million people who are soon to be homeless because they can't pay rent. People are hurting for food. They don't have money,” Smith added. “The stock market's doing very well... but the average person is doing poorly in this country, and he's going to ignore all that. So it's a standard Trump stump speech, and it has no interest to me at all.”
Smith said he sees no point in protesting the rally -- or even attending it -- but would be curious to see its turnout size along with how the small airport accommodates it.
“I would be curious to see Air Force One fly in -- if that's how he arrives, it might be by helicopter,” Smith said. “I'm curious to see what kind of crowd he attracts, but I can't even pretend to be a Trump supporter, so I'm not going to try to get into the event.”
Doris Swedmark: 'I can’t wait to see him'
Bemidji resident Doris Swedmark is very excited to see President Trump this Friday.
Accompanied by her husband Allen, she plans to arrive early to Bemidji Aviation Services that day in order to secure a spot at her town's first-ever presidential rally.
Although the president isn't set to speak until late that afternoon -- as part of an airport hangar tour of the Midwest -- Swedmark said she will be in line for the rally around 8 or 9 a.m., or even earlier if she has to.
“I do plan on going, I’m very excited. I have quite a few of my family members that are coming up,” Swedmark said. “We just think him coming here is an exciting thing for Bemidji.”
A long-time resident for 48 years, Swedmark, 66, moved to Bemidji in 1972 to attend college and is currently working as a substitute teacher.
Four years ago, she did not consider herself a Trump supporter, but, over the course of his term, her views have changed. She said she values Trump's stance on religious freedom as well as his pro-life stance, something she said she has prayed long for.
“I guess he just really grew on me," Swedmark said. "I just think that he really has done a lot.”
Swedmark said she thinks the president will address some big topics, such as the economy, and she hopes that he will discuss the future of Social Security in America. Another topic that she believes will be touched on by the president is Line 3.
Additionally, she foresees him meeting and talking with "some of the northern Minnesota candidates that are running."
“I think he will talk about our economy, helping people and really rally the people," Swedmark said. "He probably will talk about our guns and how we have a right to have them."
"I really believe that he is just for the little person, and in Bemidji, I think that there are a lot of people like that here," Swedmark added. “He has done so much for us over the past couple years, and I can’t wait to see him.”
President Donald Trump's visit to Bemidji is now set for 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 18, with doors opening at 3 p.m., at Bemidji Aviation Services, 4125 Hangar Dr. NW, his campaign announced on Monday evening.
Those interested in attending the "Great American Comeback" events can register for tickets on the Trump campaign website, events.donaldjtrump.com.