- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2017

Thomas C. Mendenhall, who says he spotted the Trump phenomenon far earlier than most people, now is trying to get the jump on the new president’s re-election campaign.

Twenty minutes before then-President-elect Trump had even taken the oath of office, the Columbia, Missouri real estate developer and former bank executive was working the crowd that had flocked to the inauguration, handing out “Trump 2020” business cards and telling listeners it was time to get organized.

There many be many on both sides who could use a short break from presidential politicking after the 2016 race, but Mr. Mendenhall insisted in an interview that “it’s never too early in politics.”

He recalled how he wrote a letter to Mr. Trump long before he began his improbable campaign in 2015, urging his fellow developer to run for president.

“I met him once at a rally in St. Louis, was a delegate for him in Cleveland, and never had any doubt he would win if he ran,” Mr. Mendenhall said, dressed in a white poncho with a red Trump baseball cap perched atop a black knit hat. His red, white and blue Trump 2020 carded lists him as “assistant state coordinator” for the Trump campaign.

He claims to have been the youngest delegate for candidate Ronald Reagan in the 1980 nominating race, and said the Trump inauguration was the first time he’d been back to Washington for the festivities since Reagan’s first election.

Mr. Mendenhall drove two days straight from his home in Missouri to make the inauguration, swinging by Atlanta to pick up friends who also wanted to come.

“This is a big deal, he said, citing the impact the vote will have on such issues as gun control and the balance of the Supreme Court.

He said he had long admired Mr. Trump but became convinced he would win as he began to campaign for him.

“I went to 15 counties in Missouri and 34 gun shows and, my God, you just couldn’t believe the enthusiasm,” he said. “I sold out my stuff every time at the gun shows, people clamoring to buy the bumper stickers, signs and buttons.”

Like his candidate, Mr. Mendenhall was also dismissive of the media, saying they missed the Trump phenomenon because they refused to credit the size and enthusiasm of his crowds.

“It’s like the man says,” Mr. Mendenhall noted with satisfaction, “the media simply refused to tell you how many people were coming to Trump events, how long the lines were out the door when he came to the rally in St. Louis. Trump would challenge them to turn their cameras around and show the crowd and they’d never do it.”

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