President Donald Trump knew where to go Saturday for home field advantage, finding comfort in the Deep South with college football fans cheering the nation's top two teams — and him.
His reception at the showdown between Louisiana State and Alabama contrasted with the scene at Game 5 of the World Series in Washington, where was booed, and the mixed response to his appearance at a martial arts fight in New York.
Trump, sitting one tier above the field, waved as fans turned around to look up at the president. He smiled, gave a thumbs-up a few times and threw a couple of fist bumps into the air as the Alabama fans waved red and white pompoms in response. First lady Melania Trump got an equally enthusiastic welcome.
There was little sign of political sentiment on campus but plenty of bipartisan grumbling about the long lines to get in due to enhanced security. Trump left in the fourth quarter of the game, which LSU won 46-41.
Presidents have long used sporting events to woo support, but these events also are a venue for fans to express their own political leanings.
Both loud boos and cheers could be heard as Trump took his seat before the recent pay-per-view UFC title match. That greeting was warmer than the reception Trump received at the World Series at Nationals Park, when he was roundly booed and became the target of a "Lock him up!" chant.
He knew he was heading to friendlier turf in Alabama, getting out of Washington where talk of impeachment was everywhere.
In Alabama, where he won 63% of the vote in 2016, the president generated some heat. Alabama's student government association warned students against being disruptive, but said their First Amendment rights will not being muzzled.
"Regardless of your political views, that's pretty cool, having the president at the game," said LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.
Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III said, "Just for him even wanting to come to this game, it just shows, like I said, the magnitude of the game." — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS