Trump recounts tale of saving Georgia farm amid attacks over eminent domain

Story highlights

  • Donald Trump opened a campaign rally on Tuesday with a story about him saving a Georgia family's farm from foreclosure 30 years ago
  • GOP opponents have recently attacked Trump by claiming the real-estate mogul has used eminent domain to further his business interests at the expense of common people

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump opened a campaign rally on Tuesday with a story about him saving a Georgia family's farm from foreclosure 30 years ago -- a tale that also doubled as a defense against new attacks on his support of eminent domain.

Speaking in North Augusta, South Carolina, Trump brought up one of the family members onstage to retell a story, which dates back to the 1980s. Trump began the rally by waving a picture of himself as a much-younger man, standing next to Annabel Hill, who was facing foreclosure in 1986.
"Her daughter, Betsy Sharp, came and she gave me a picture and she said, 'Mr. Trump, could you sign this? We pray for you every night,'" Trump said at the rally. "I said, 'Why do you pray for me every night? Explain this to me.' She said, 'I am the daughter of Annabel Hill. I said, 'Come on out.' So Betsy, come out wherever you are."
Sharp then took the stage and Trump lowered the microphones for her.
"Thirty years ago, actually this month, February the 4th, my father committed suicide. He was going to lose our family farm that had been in our family for over a hundred years," Sharp told the audience. "When Donald Trump heard the story, he reached out save it. So we are very, very thankful of his generosity to save our family farm."
It was a rare, softer moment from Trump, but one that directly counters a line of attack his GOP opponents have been using against him recently that says the real-estate mogul has used eminent domain to further his business interests at the expense of common people.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz launched an ad last week telling the story of Vera Coking, an Atlantic City woman who faced the threat of losing her home when the city wanted to take her home so Trump could build a casino parking lot.
"Vera Coking's home was all she had left but it stood in Donald Trump's way and the limousine parking lot he wanted for his casino," the narrator says in the ad. "To him, she was a nobody."
Trump has taken on a more positive and personal tone in his campaign since losing the Iowa caucuses. With just four days left before the South Carolina Republican primary, he also invited a pair of supporters on stage after they helped remove a protester from the audience.
"That was so great. Who was the person who did that? Put up your hand, put up your hand. Bring that person up here. I love that," Trump said.
"I've got two tours of Iraq, I'm a Richland County deputy," said one supporter who took the stage, before he was interrupted by loud cheers and chants of "U.S.A." "If it wasn't for Mr. Trump right here, I don't think any of us would have the voice we have. This is the only man that's really going to bring America back."
Trump then brought the supporter in for a handshake and a hug before he left the stage.
Recent polling shows Trump ahead in South Carolina, but he is facing a strong challenge from a winnowed pack of Republican candidates, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
He's also recently pledged to run a campaign of "great optimism."
He recently took down an ad airing in South Carolina that criticized Cruz on immigration and replaced it with a positive spot supporting his candidacy.