LOWELL — As people trickled into Chris Salatas’ living room to watch President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address, a cardboard cut-out of the man himself — propped against the wall — greeted them.
No GOP watch party in 2018 would be complete without it.
With the TV turned to FOX news in the living room, more than a dozen Trump fans and elected officials watched as Trump recapped his first year in office and his policy plans for the year ahead.
The mood at a viewing party in Lowell was celebratory and optimistic.
Many, including Schererville Town Councilman Kevin Connelly, gave high marks to Trump for his first SOTU address. He applauded Trump for his composed speech recapping his first year in office, and his “pragmatic approach” to governing.
Trump, he said, has focused on “all the rights things in his first year in office” — like reducing regulations, supporting small businesses and lessening the tax burden.
“That’s what makes America great again,” Connelly said.
At the small gathering in Lowell, Trump supporters raised their glasses upon the mentioning of Trump’s oft-repeated slogan on the campaign trail, “Make American Great Again!”
Some jeered at Democratic leaders in the audience for their refusal to stand for their president when he touted his tax overhaul and other policy changes.
Trump’s calm, collected and unruffled tone contrasted to the president’s usual Twitter rants and combative nature. That did not go unnoticed by people at the local GOP watch party.
“There’s a time and place for both. Obviously, this seemed a little more polished that was nice to see. But sometimes he goes with that very direct straight-to-the-people tweet … to get an unfiltered message to the people, and that has its time and place, too,” said Lowell Town Council President LeAnn Angerman, R-2nd.
During his speech, Trump pushed for a $1.7 trillion plan to fix the nation’s road and bridges and additional military spending in the face of the growing global threat of nuclear war.
Trump also focused on securing borders and combating abuse of the country's immigration law.
Salatas, who serves as president for the Lowell Town Council and chairman of the Lake County Young Republicans, said he welcomed Trump fans and GOP supporters to his home Tuesday night to celebrate a "successful first year."
Congress will have to come together in bipartisan fashion to may headway on contentious issues like immigration reform, he said.
"Republicans are not going to get everything they want. Democrats are not going to get everything they want. We need to come together (for meaningful reform.)"
While Republicans in Lowell cheered the president, Democrats elsewhere in Lake County expressed disappointment following Trump’s first State of The Union speech.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and Lake County Commissioner Mike Repay watched the speech separately from their homes, but the two Lake Democrats came to the same conclusion.
"It's the same rhetoric. He offered nothing to change the dysfunction in Washington," McDermott said.
Repay said, "I just saw more of the same and nothing to move the needle to improve cooperative efforts."
The two said Trump is rightly proud of an America that has reduced unemployment and offered prosperity to all local families. "It's a rising tide that floats all boats," McDermott said.
But they said they believe that success is built on the solid years under former President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
"He's like the guy who woke up on third base and thinks he hit a triple," Repay said.