WILDWOOD, N.J. - Hundreds of supporters camped overnight ahead of President Donald Trump's Tuesday rally in Wildwood, New Jersey.
The line outside of the Wildwood Convention Center grew by the minute as Trump supporters flocked to the small New Jersey coastal town for a "Keep America Great" rally.
The president's visit will take place in the congressional district of U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew.
President Trump endorsed the Democrat-turned-Republican during an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 19, when Van Drew formally announced he was leaving the Democratic Party after providing Trump with a symbolic victory in the prior day's impeachment vote.
Van Drew said at the time that he believed the GOP was a “better fit” and promised Trump his “undying support." Trump promised to return the favor and announced that he was endorsing Van Drew for reelection and labeled him “a tremendous asset for the party."
Cape May County on the southern tip of New Jersey reflects just how much loyalty Trump commands with voters outside the industrial heartland. More than 65% of its economy comes from tourism. The population booms from 90,000 year-round to more than 670,000 in July and August. Yet the county is reliably safe swimming for Republicans — and a Trump event bringing in thousands of guests into a community that is shuttered for winter is an economic bonus for the hotels, motels, and restaurants.
The event is a chance to reward Van Drew with a presidential seal of approval, but it will also resonate beyond the Jersey Shore, drawing in suburban Philadelphia voters at a moment when Pennsylvania is a must-win for the president in 2020, said Seth Grossman, an attorney who ran against Van Drew in 2018 as a pro-Trump Republican.
"He’s sending a message that it’s OK for Democrats to embrace Trump and Republicans, as opposed to feeling obligated to stay in the Democratic Party," Grossman said.
Cape May County Indivisible, a grassroots advocacy group, plans to protest Trump's visit outside the convention center.
“When hate comes to our backyard, we have a moral obligation to take action and not look away. We stand in solidarity with the historically marginalized communities that this administration is hurting," said CMC Indivisible Co-Chair Shayla Woolfort.
The doors for the 7 p.m. rally were set to open at 3 p.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.