Riley Vittitoe has his ticket for next weekend’s Trump rally in Topeka. With luck, he’ll get in — so he can turn his back on the president and walk right back out.
And he isn’t the only one.
“Some people want to get in there right when the president takes the podium and just walk out,” Vittitoe said. “Others are planning on going inside and then protesting outside with signs.”
And yet other ticket-holders don’t plan on going at all, thinking that a whole lot of empty seats Oct. 6 at the Kansas ExpoCentre would embarrass Donald Trump as he campaigns for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an early Trump supporter.
“Hurt his ego with a no show crowd,” one woman wrote on Facebook.
Those strategies and others have driven much conversation on Kansas City-area social media since Kobach announced Thursday that Trump would be holding one of his Make America Great Again rallies in support of his fellow Republican’s campaign for governor.
“I’m honored and grateful that President Trump will be coming to Kansas,” Kobach said in a written statement. “President Trump’s success in cutting taxes at the national level unleashed economic growth, and I want to accomplish the same thing in Kansas by reducing our crushing tax burden.”
Kobach is hoping that the president’s appearance will boost his chances of beating Democrat Laura Kelly and independent Greg Orman on Nov. 6 to become the state’s chief executive. But the announcement has also invigorated the opposition, as Washburn University political scientist professor Bob Beatty predicted in The Wichita Eagle.
Some plan on protesting outside the rally. The group Kobach is Wrong for Kansas is asking supporters to set aside 5-8 p.m., “rain or shine,” next Saturday to display their feelings toward Kobach and the president. So far, 400 have said they will be there to hear speakers opposing what they see as the anti-immigrant policies that Kobach and Trump share.
“We’re not advocating for folks to go inside, but if people want to do that on their own, those are individual different choices they are free to make,” said Zachary Mueller, spokesman for Kobach is Wrong for Kansas. “It’s not a space where everybody can feel safe.”
Others have no such qualms. They are snapping up tickets so they can be in line when the doors open at 3:30 that afternoon for the event, which starts at 6:30.
“Who knows, maybe one of us could become the next plaid shirt guy,” one man tweeted in referring to 17-year-old Tyler Linfesty, whose smirks and puzzled looks in response to the president’s remarks were caught on camera during a Sept. 6 Trump rally in Billings, Mont.
His facial expressions became an immediate sensation on Twitter during the live TV broadcast, and Linfesty was yanked from his spot behind the president and questioned briefly by the Secret Service before being shown the door.
Vittitoe has no such ambitions. But the 32-year-old Topeka business owner (computer hardware and software repair) hopes to have a seat somewhere in the auditorium along with friends and acquaintances who, like him, are no great fans of the president.
“I would say at least 50 have claimed their tickets so far,” he said. “We’re not there to interrupt and intervene. We’re just trying to get out a message.”
A ticket doesn’t ensure entry, as Trump rallies are often overbooked. That fact also undercuts one strategy now being advocated on some anti-Trump Facebook pages. Reserve a ticket, some anti-Trumpers say. Not only will that keep Trump supporters from latching onto them, but it will also make the president look bad if the hall is less than full.
But according to one Trump rally veteran writing on an anti-Kobach Facebook page, that form of protest simply doesn’t work, because there are tickets aplenty.
“...not going,” she wrote, ”only ramps up the number of ‘people who want to get in’ ... which will then be used by Trump to boast ‘Look! 20,000 people wanted to get in! But we could only let in 5,000 of you!”
Kobach spokeswoman Danedri Herbert did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
There’s no word on how many will be let in for the Topeka rally. The Kansas ExpoCentre’s Landon Arena has room for 10,000 at concerts and 7,450 for ice hockey.
Ticketholders are advised to leave all posters, banners and signs at home, regardless of political message, but come as you are.
“There is no dress code,” the tickets say.