Tim Lambing never doubted this moment would come.
Even as pundits and polls dismissed the idea that Donald Trump had much of a chance of winning the presidential election, Lambing held on to unshakable confidence that the billionaire businessman would pull it off.
The 41-year-old father of three from Kearney, Missouri, even guessed the exact number of electoral votes Trump would win: 304.
“I called it dead on,” Lambing said.
Now Lambing and his wife, Lindsay, 35, have made the trip from Missouri to Washington to witness Trump’s swearing-in as president, and the dawn of what they hope will be a stronger, safer America.
Among those in attendance for the ceremony at the National Mall on Friday will be Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri and Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and members of both states’ congressional delegations.
Lambing always has been a Republican. But it wasn’t until he got fired up by Trump’s candidacy a year and a half ago that he became active in the party.
He liked Trump’s tough positions on illegal immigration and his promise to cut red tape for businesses. He believes Trump will build up the U.S. military and keep the nation safe from terrorists.
“I like how he’s unfiltered,” said Lambing, who works for a benefits consulting firm. “I think we’ve really gravitated towards an era where things are so politically correct that sometimes candidates are somewhat weary to really take a stand or establish a position. And he was able to present his position in a way where he wasn’t really afraid of how things would transpire, he just wanted to be himself.”
Inspired, Lambing handed out yard signs. He made the case for Trump at book clubs and at his daughter’s sports practices. He served as a delegate at county and the statewide Republican conferences. He even traveled to Ohio for the Republican National Convention, where he mingled with the likes of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Ben Carson, the surgeon and former presidential hopeful.
Lambing said he knew from firsthand experience at rallies that Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” resonated with people who typically do not vote Republican. That’s why he was confident Trump would win.
In Kansas City, Lambing said, he’d talked with people who worked for car companies, railroad employees, union members. All of them liked Trump.
“I had a really good feeling that the union vote was going to be a big part of the silent vote for Trump,” he said. “They weren’t the people who’d put signs in their front yard. They were the people who were engaged, they were excited, so I knew a big part of that vote was going to show up on Election Day. I also knew a lot of conservative Republicans wanted to distance themselves from the circus, some of the statements Trump would make, but I knew that when the day came they were going to vote Republican.”
Now he’s just soaking it all in.
“I’ve never been in D.C. before,” Lambing said. “I like history. I like politics. This is a good opportunity for me to be here and see things in person.”
Another enthusiastic Trump fan, 13-year-old Paddy Olson, of Wichita, Kansas, made the trip to the inauguration with his parents.
Paddy started talking with his dad, Allen, about politics and economics on his way home from swim practice last year.
Allen Olson has worked as a lawyer at Koch Industries for 24 years and considers himself a traditional conservative. Paddy quickly decided that he supported the anti-establishment Republican candidate, Trump.
Paddy’s support is so fervent that nearly all the gifts his mom, Kelly, bought him for Christmas were Trump-themed: the red “Make America Great Again” hat, a sweatshirt with Trump’s golden hair on top of an elephant, a Trump bobble-head and even socks that say “Trump” along the sides.
The family planned to wake up at 4:30 a.m. on Friday to get to the mall before the gates opened at 6 a.m.
“The funny thing is potentially the entire population of Kansas will fit in that tiny space,” Paddy said. “It makes you think, you know.”
For John Hancock of St. Louis, Missouri, the inauguration presents an opportunity for father-son bonding. He and his son road-tripped 13 hours to attend.
Hancock, a former Missouri GOP chairman, was at George W. Bush’s swearing-in in 2001. He wasn’t planning to come to the Trump inauguration, but his son really wanted to experience it.
John Hancock Jr., 22, helped get out the vote for the Republican ticket in Colorado, a battleground state. He’s hoping to stay in Washington if he can land a job in the Trump administration.
“He already got the bug,” his father said. “He’s looking at White House options.”
On Wednesday, the pair networked at a reception for Reince Preibus, the incoming White House chief of staff.
“When you’ve been in politics as long as I have, you develop relationships all over the country, so a good part of the fun of this event is reconnecting with people you know well all over the country,” Hancock said.
He described the mood among Republicans who’ve traveled to Washington for the inaugural as hopeful.
“We’ve never had a president like this before,” Hancock said. “But clearly the American people want a president like this. So we’re all excited and really hoping for the best, and I think there’s every good reason to be optimistic. You just look at the kinds of policies they’re espousing, the tax policy, the excitement, whether it’s the stock market or businesses that are expanding or announcing growth — I mean, those are all really good signs.”
Morrison of The Wichita Eagle reported from Wichita, Kansas.