VANDALIA — Proclaiming “I love Ohio,” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at a Wright Bros. Aero hangar at Dayton International Airport in the Dayton suburb of Vandalia on Saturday morning.
Thousands turned out to greet Trump as he exited his private jet.
In speaking to the crowd, the candidate touched upon a number of themes familiar to many who have followed his campaign: immigration, border security, the state of the U.S. military, the treatment of terrorists, and job losses overseas.
Speaking of his supporters, Trump said, “They want great security, they want a great military, they want to take care of their vets, they want a border, they want a wall!” which prompted chants of “Build that wall!”
When Trump asked “Who’s gonna pay for the wall?” the crowd responded “Mexico!”
Trump also addressed the cancellation of a rally in Chicago, an event which was postponed Friday night due to safety concerns following protests which turned ugly. A Trump rally scheduled for Sunday at Cincinnati’s Duke Energy Convention Center was also canceled, but was replaced with a campaign stop Sunday at the Savannah Center in West Chester.
Safety concerns for the Republican candidate were well-founded as one protester attempted to climb up on stage behind Trump. The candidate’s Secret Service detail quickly apprehended the person and escorted him from the hangar.
Seemingly unperturbed by the incident, Trump, amid a chant of “Trump, Trump, Trump,” gave the crowd a thumbs up and said, “Thank you for the warning. I was ready for him, but it’s much easier if the cops do it, don’t we agree?”
There were a few other isolated incidents of hecklers being removed from the hangar, with Trump at one point saying, “If there’s a group out there, just throw them the hell out.” Each time, the crowd loudly chanted “Trump” and waved their signs to drown out protesters.
Chief M.E. Etter of the Dayton Airport Police Department, said that given the violence that occurred in Chicago, additional law enforcement was seen as a necessity at this event.
“Yes, we’ve added extra here today,” he confirmed, adding, “The Trump people are mostly taking care of potential protesters before they get in the doors. This is a private event.”
Trump accused well-organized groups on the left for sparking the recent protests. He also called upon Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders to “get up and say to his people — stop! He should get up in the morning and tell his people to be nice.”
Trump also threw barbs at his GOP primary opponents, referring to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as “Little Marco” and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted.”
“(Cruz) was supposed to win in South Carolina,” he said, touting his own support among evangelical Christians, including Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr., and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. “I won in a landslide and we got the evangelicals. You want to know why? Because they don’t like liars.”
The GOP frontrunner saved most of his criticism for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whom he called “a baby” and chastised for his support of the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as his time as a managing director with Lehmen Bros., which declared bankruptcy in the 2008 economic downturn.
“He’s not the right guy, he’s not tough enough, he’s not sharp enough,” he said. “In my opinion, maybe he wins Ohio … and maybe he doesn’t.”
He also called Kasich “very weak on illegal immigrants” and being “totally in favor of amnesty.”
Trump promised the crowd, “I’m going to bring jobs back from China. I’m going to bring jobs back from Japan. I’m going to bring our jobs back from Mexico. I’m going to bring jobs back to this country, folks. You won’t even believe it. Let’s start winning again.”
The rally drew a broad range of age groups.
Graham Garner, 18, a Dayton resident and student at Ole Miss, said he missed an earlier Trump rally in Mississippi.
“I was disappointed,” he said. “I wanted to come here to see this one. I wanted to hear him talk, because it’s a lot different than hearing it on TV.”
Dan and Jackie Huffman traveled from Celina to see Trump.
“This is the man,” said Dan, a U.S. Army veteran. “I like his ideas, I like his guts. We like the idea he’s for veterans.”
Two longtime friends from Piqua, Peggy Henthorn and Melinda Sillman, expressed their excitement while waiting for Trump’s arrival.
“This is so close to our home ground,” said Henthorn. “We wanted to be a part of history, to be here in sight of him. It’s very exciting.”
“I appreciate the process,” said Sillman, “It’s important we go through the process of elections.”
Ohio is a crucial state for candidates of both parties, both in the March 15 primary and the November 8 general election. The New York businessman faces a challenge in the Buckeye State from Gov. Kasich as polls show the two Republicans within a few percentage points of each other in their race to grab Ohio’s winner-take-all 66 GOP primary delegates.
From Dayton, Trump’s next stop in Ohio on Saturday was Cleveland’s I-X Center. He was also set to appear Sunday in Cincinnati.
The writer may be reached at (937) 569-4314.