President Donald J. Trump compared himself and his political movement to Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address during his speech Thursday in Billings.
"You know what, Abraham Lincoln made the Gettysburg Address speech," he said from the podium in Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. "Do you know he was ridiculed, he was ridiculed? He took the horse and carriage up from the White House. He wrote it partially in that carriage and partially at a desk in the Lincoln bedroom, which is incredible by the way, in the White House. And he went up to Gettysburg and he delivered that speech, 'The Gettysburg Address,' and he was excoriated by the fake news — they had fake news then. He was excoriated. They said it was a terrible, terrible speech. They said it was far too short, it's not long, many of us know it by memory, they said it was far too short and too flowery, 'four score and seven years ago,' right? Too flowery. And he died. Fifty years after his death they said it may have been the greatest speech ever made in America," Trump said, holding his hands out wide to the audience.
"Right? Pretty good, pretty good. I have a feeling that's going to happen with us, in different ways, that's going to happen with us."
Boulder resident Vern Zohner, a retired seasonal game surveyor for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, was one of thousands of attendees who repeatedly cheered for the president at Thursday night's rally for U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte.
Zohner was also one of several people who pointed toward an appreciation of the broader experience of the rally accompanying a rare presidential visit to Montana.
The comparison between Trump and Lincoln didn't go far enough for Zohner.
"I think in 10 years from now we will look back at this period in our lives and we will equate President Trump along with Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Ronald Reagan," Zohner said. "We came here last evening and we stood in line since 7:15 this morning to see President Trump. The speech he gave tonight was everything and more than I ever expected."
Mina Jore, a retired school teacher living in Shepherd, also found that the president in person was more than she bargained for.
"Loved it, totally," she said. "Beyond expectations. Just wonderful."
Jore had a close-up view from about five rows away from Trump and described the event as a highlight in which Trump managed to keep the excitement going.
"I just think he's doing such a great job and people just don't give him the credit," she said.
While that may be true for some, Jiri Moor of Lewistown didn't hesitate to give the president all the credit she could.
"Everything he said tonight, I agreed with," she said.
Moor said she has seen Trump every time he's been to Montana, beginning with his 2016 campaign rally in Billings while he was still a candidate. She, her husband, and their son drive in a diesel truck, stay in a nice hotel and spare no expense during their trips to see Trump, she said.
"It's a good contribution to the economy here," said her husband, Jonathan Moor.
Jiri Moor said she and her husband, a retired Marine, take issue with the way some media outlets have portrayed the president, adding that, "If you take away the dead and illegal voters," Trump "not only won the electoral but he won the popular (vote) and you'll see that in 2020."
"He's gonna take it all," Moor said.
Moore, a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory that originated in an online forum, said she saw a total of five signs in Trump's speech related to the theory, four verbal and one nonverbal, but declined to elaborate on what they were or what she believes they mean.
"I'm not going to say anything because you have to see for yourself," she said.
Moor described how she believes "Q," a letter included in the name of an anonymous internet forum user who wrote the post which started the conspiracy theory, is a significant for its place as the 17th letter in the alphabet, and also as a letter symbolic of a high level of security clearance attained by "a team of people who are insiders and they are the antithesis to the Deep State, which we're watching being dismantled."
The couple said while they were waiting in line Thursday they saw people with QAnon shirts being asked to take them off and switch shirts before entering the rally.
Gillette resident Bob Vomhof said he and family members waited in line for about five hours to get prime seats to see the president. MetraPark began letting attendees into the rally at about 2:30 p.m.
For Vomhof, the long wait was well worth it. Shortly after Trump finished talking about Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address and its unfair treatment, Vomhof, a 6-foot, 5-inch, 280-pound former defensive end for Colorado State University, caught Trump's eye.
"Now you have a president who's standing up for our country and standing up for you," Trump said, looking over to his right and seeing Vomhof. "Look at the size of that guy, man."
Trump pointed to Vomhof, who around the same time leapt onto a chair and began flexing, his Trump 2020 Keep America Great flag draped over his shoulders like a cape.
"Look at this guy, do I like him? Wow." Trump said, pointing and then flexing his right arm. "We're not going to mess with him tonight, I tell you. Thank you man, that is cool. That's really great, thank you very much."
"That was badass," Vomhof said afterwards. "I mean, if you were to want anybody in the country to notice you, I mean that's the guy."
Vomhof, who operates an oilfield business that does some soil remediation work, said the trip to Billings was well worth it.
"Honestly, it's like a giant pep rally. It's way more fun when you're here because there's a whole atmosphere," he said. "When you see it on TV , now granted President Trump is always joking around, it's like way more entertaining and way more funny when you're here.
"It was just a great experience. It's awesome. I'm so glad we came down for it."