By Max Greenwood
DES MOINES, Iowa — When Donald Trump decided to skip Thursday night’s GOP debate, plenty of supporters showed up at his last-minute rally just three miles away.
So did lots of other people, from the simply curious to the outright opposed.
“I’m really just here to see the spectacle that is Donald Trump,” Braden Stanley, 22, a senior at Drake University, which hosted the event as a benefit for military veterans’ charities. “He’s loud, he’s entertaining; it’s just something I had to see while I have the opportunity.”
Stanley plans to caucus for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday as Iowa launches the 2016 presidential season. Jason Carsello, another Drake student and Sanders supporter, said he wanted to the “cultural difference” between Sanders and Trump events.
“I think it’s pretty clear that [Trump] doesn’t deal with people who disagree with him very well,” Carsello said. “With Bernie’s people, things seem more open, so I just really wanted to see this. How often does Donald Trump come to your school?”
Just outside the rally, protesters holding signs that said, “Dump Trump,” argued with security guards. Other spectators were removed from the auditorium after shouting criticisms of Trump.
Tim Celander, 23, said he was there to support veterans, rather than Trump himself. He plans to caucus for a Republican candidate. He is leaning toward Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
“My guy isn’t here tonight, but that doesn’t mean I can’t respect Donald Trump for this,” Celander said. “I’m here to support veterans, and just hear what he has to say. I mean, he’s an interesting guy, just not who I think I’m going to caucus for.”