-- Charleston, West Virginia -- Before Donald Trump came out to stage at the Charleston Civic Center, it was clear where the crowd’s support was going. Chants of “We want Trump!” rang through the audience.
“TRUMP DIGS COAL,” signs were scattered through Charleston Civic Center Thursday evening.
One day after becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump made his first campaign stop in the Mountain State, with a targeted message geared towards miners and the coal industry.
“I am thinking about the miners all over this country. We’re going to put the miners back to work,” Trump said, calling on the miners who were in the crowd of thousands to stand up. “We are going to get those mines open. Oh, coal country. What they have done.”
His all but official pivot to the general election was apparent in the crowd, who greeted the real-estate mogul with ecstatic cheers and the West Virginia-rooted John Denver song, “Take Me Home, Country Roads."
Trump has long promised to become more “presidential” but tonight, this was the same Trump as always.
He delivered his usual message about trade and China, promising to build the wall. The New York businessman also addressed his Democratic rival, hitting her for past comments vowing to put the coal industry out of business.
“She said 'I'm going to put the miners and the mines out of business.' And then she comes over and she tried to explain her statement. That is a tough one to explain. Wouldn’t you say?” he asked.
It was a preview of the general election battle that is soon to come, one that will surely be rife with attacks, both personal and professional. But, for some voters, they were just happy that a contentious primary season had come to an end; happy their candidate made it to the finish line.
Phillip Baisden, 45, of Huttonsville, West Virginia was laid off from a coal-industry job, which he blames on “Democratic President Obama.” Baisden, along with his wife and five children, believe and hope Trump will bring jobs back to his state.
Baisden, decked out in Trump paraphernalia was overjoyed, but admits he didn’t believe Trump had a fighting chance when he announced his run for the White House in June.
“When he first publicly announced that he was going to run for president, it was interesting, but I didn't think he had a chance,” Baisden told ABC News. “I really thought there was no way.”
Bob Goines, 63, of Logan, West Virginia, worked in the West Virginia coal mines for 32 years before retiring. He and his sister waited for three hours in the rain to see the man who Goines says he has supported for six months now. He, too, admits he’s surprised Trump has made it this far.
“I am totally shocked because when this first started and there were 17 candidates out there I told my wife there was no way in Hades that Trump would ever get this far,” Goines remembered. “It is just shocking for me to be here. This is witnessing history because he’s done something no one has ever done before.
Meanwhile, Rob Simmons, a veteran said that he always knew the businessman would prevail.
“Watch his face watch his expressions, he’s got the expressions of a man that is secure in what he says and does. He is a man that wants the truth said about this government, this country,” Simmons said, a smile brightening his face.
Simmons praised the businessman for being self-funded, a once core tenant of Trump’s campaign. But, Thursday evening, Trump told the crowd that he would accept donations for his general election campaign.
Nonetheless, many supporters aren’t swayed, praising the candidate's “character” and “honesty,” admiring the fact that their next president has no “hidden agenda” and won’t be beholden to his donors.
“Trump is an honest good man, he really is,” said Carrie Simmons of Wheeling, West Virginia. “His character is a lot deeper in loving people, loving America and giving us, the American people the freedom to be the people that we need to be.”
Wheeling says there is no doubt Trump will be the next president.
“I think he’s a winner, he knows how to win, and he’s winning and I think he’s going to win it,” Wheeling said before Trump took the stage.