Presidential supporters, political candidates gather at downtown event

THE ART OF THE WHEEL: Famed 'Trump Bus' rolls into Cartersville

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There are a lot of things one might assume about Danny Hamilton — the owner and operator of not just one pro-Donald Trump coach, but a fleet of about half a dozen "Make America Great Again"-espousing busses. 

But there's one admission the founder of Atlanta-based Star Coaches Inc. makes that — to quote the Commander-in-Chief himself — is a "hyuge" surprise.

"People freak out when I say I voted for Barack Obama," the 63-year-old Atlantan said. "But I felt like Barack Obama was the best for the country at that time, based on his story and what he said."

As evident by the Trump 2020 coach he cruised into Cartersville Tuesday afternoon, Hamilton's changed his political perspective quite a bit since 2008. He started making rounds in the Trump-bedecked luxury bus two years ago, with stops all over the Southeast.

The Trump Administration even gave Hamilton's campaign their blessing. 

"[Kellyanne] Conway got back with us, she looked at all the wrap and everything we sent to her and she approved it," he said. "She told us to not use the coach as a tax write-off ... that was her only request."

Naturally, Hamilton took an armada of coaches to Washington, D.C., on inauguration day 2017. 

"We keep the Trump train rolling and we've met a lot of fantastic people," he said. "It's been a phenomenal two years and it's changed my life."

The "Trump Bus" made its latest appearance at the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce, where it was used as the backdrop for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Presidents Team. Regional director of the 14th District Ron Mixon described the local group as an organization dedicated to educating the public on key policy points and motivating the masses to participate in the political process.

About 100 people showed up for the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony. Afterwards, State Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, served as emcee for an event inside the local Chamber, in which a litany of state and local government candidates took to the podium.

Among those speaking at the event were gubernatorial challenger Clay Tippins, state insurance commissioner hopeful Tracy Jordan and several Bartow County Board of Education candidates, including Tony Ross, Terry Lee Eggert and incumbent Davis Nelson. 

Although Thompson said Trump has scored some key victories with tax cuts, regulatory repeals and a falling unemployment rate, he also said he's concerned about the base becoming apathetic during the midterms. 

"Those that were supportive of Trump in the past are still supportive of him now," Thompson said. "Of course, you get issues that come up and everyone has a certain hot button that will get you excited, but then that tapers down ... first of all, what we've got to do is make sure we have turnout."

He said Trump has unquestionably succeeded at bringing voters who otherwise would have no interest in participating in politics to the table. 

"He's been real, whether we like it or not," he said. "And I think he's reached across and he has hit the heart of many Americans ... there are a lot of people engaged right now that truly believe now that their voice is being heard."

Among those voices is 69-year-old Bartow resident Farooq Ahmadani — a Pakistani immigrant and a registered Republican.

He recalled attending a rally in Atlanta and getting a brief moment to speak with Trump. 

"I was the only Muslim who was supporting him," he said. "He asked me a question, 'You really voted for me?' I said 'Yes sir, and what I will do is make other people vote for you, too.'"

Ahmadani said he expects Trump to easily win in 2020. He also said he believes Trump could bolster his re-election bid with a new campaign strategy — tapping into the minority vote. 

"Everybody is a Trump, in a way," he said. "I know the minorities and I know Mr. Trump. They are the same, but they don't have the guts like me to say 'I've got 60 percent or more of Trump in me.'"

Local Presidents Team supporter Charley Harper, however, said he's concerned by "a serious divide" in the country. 

"I look at these people that are constantly harping on him, and they remind me of people who buy an airplane ticket hoping the plane will crash," the 65-year-old Cartersville realtor said. "Today, you can't have a civil discussion with someone and walk away without it getting personal ... you can't agree to disagree." 

While Harper said the Trump Administration has had its disappointments — namely, not overturning the Affordable Care Act — he said there's no denying Trump has rejuvenated conservative politics in America.

And securing the youth vote, he said, might be Trump's biggest, well, trump card, come 2020.

"The Republican Party has got to get off this Ted Cruz conservatism where it's my way or the highway, because they've got to reach out to these millennials," he said. "If they ever get to participating, they're going to be a strong force to be reckoned with."

Still, the man who could rightly be considered the figurative (if not literal) conductor of the "Trump Train" believes the president has his work cut out for him over the next two years. 

"He's got his own Republicans against him ... he's battling everything, man, I don't  really even know how he does it," Hamilton said. "He's up against the swamp, he's up against big money — it's going to be a tough road for him."