WILMINGTON — A day after delivering a speech on immigration security, Donald Trump continued to stress his America-first approach at a Thursday rally in the Roberts Centre near Wilmington.
Trump said, as president, he would “treat everyone with dignity, respect and compassion.”
But then the Republican presidential nominee added, “our greatest compassion will be for the American citizen,” a statement that drew loud applause from the thousands attending.
Trump in a Wednesday night speech in Arizona said he would immediately force out immigrants living in the country illegally who’ve committed crimes, as well as expel people who’ve overstayed visas.
In Clinton County Thursday, Trump started his 23-minute talk by speaking about economic policy. He said some practices are going to stop, citing product dumping, unfair foreign subsidies and currency manipulation.
“The era of economic surrender, which is what we’ve done essentially, is over. A new era of American greatness is going to begin,” said Trump.
His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, backed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), and a “job-killing trade deal” with South Korea, Trump said.
Ohio has lost nearly one in three manufacturing jobs since NAFTA was enacted in the 1990s, he said.
The GOP nominee promised “a massive tax cut for working Americans,” and to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (often called ObamaCare) — the latter pledge receiving a lot of cheering.
With an eye to minority populations, Trump said, “We’re going to fight to ensure that every young African-American and Latino child is put on the ladder of American success.”
On education, Trump spoke in favor of school choice and against Common Core.
He said he and the president of Mexico, with whom he met Wednesday, have a shared desire to secure the border between the two countries, “put the [drug] cartel out of business,” and keep jobs in the Western Hemisphere.
On foreign policy, Trump said he supports rebuilding what he called a depleted military, and called for avoiding “needless foreign wars” and for building new friendships overseas.
He spoke of working with allies “to crush, defeat and utterly destroy ISIS.”
With a Trump administration, there would be a new immigration screen test for entry into the United States, he said.
“We only want to admit those into our country who share our values and love our people,” said Trump.
He sounded a populist message during the Wilmington campaign rally, telling the crowd he is fighting for them in contrast to “the powerful protecting the powerful; insiders fighting for insiders.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani introduced Trump at Roberts Centre. Local pastor Dan Mayo gave the invocation, local military veteran Josh Sams led the pledge of allegiance, and local resident Becky Riley sang the national anthem.
Speaking prior to Trump were Ohio Senate President Keith Faber and Clinton County Republican Party Chairman Tim Inwood.
Inwood, a strong gun rights advocate, said at one point, referring to Hillary Clinton, “My friends, never trust a politician that does not trust you with your firearms.”
The local GOP chairperson also spoke about “illegal aliens,” expressly saying he would not use the term “immigration,” explaining that immigration is a legal process and the people at issue had not gone through that process.
Inwood said Clinton County was “flooded with them [undocumented foreigners] for a number of years,” adding “our crime rates took a spike while they were here.”
He said the 2011 knife-killing of Christina Hill in Wilmington was committed “by an illegal alien.”
Most attending the Trump visit liked what the candidate had to say and were excited by the entire experience of the rally.
“It was an exhilarating experience and very cool to see Mr. Trump in person and so close,” said Tyler Wells, a Wilmington High School senior who attended the rally with his father, Bill.
“His speech was very gripping. He really reached out to the young people here and about protecting our future,” Tyler Wells added. Tyler, 17, will turn 18 on Nov. 6 and will be registered to vote in his first election.
“Once again the national spotlight shined brightly on Clinton County,” said Clinton County Commissioner Patrick Haley, a Republican. “The county is beginning to bounce back from the grim local economy of a few years ago. It seems to me people are looking for the same recoveries to occur in their towns, and Trump’s populist message is promising them hope. I watched the Trump plane take off from the air park, and was pleased the national media was there to show off one of Clinton County’s greatest assets.”
Clinton County Auditor Terry Habermehl said, “Mr. Trump’s energy and excitement were contagious. Donald Trump understands that the American people are frustrated and scared, with most of us believing our country is headed in the wrong direction. He outlined his strategy for making America great again, and it really resonated with the crowd.”
The Republican auditor added, “I think the point that really hit home with those in attendance was that he is working for us, and if elected, he will re-establish a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Americans are tired of watching a federal government that fails to work for them, and my sense from the crowd was that they believe Donald Trump can change that because he is not a politician and is not beholden to special interests.”
Of course, not everyone in Republican-concentrated Clinton County was pumped up by Trump’s local stop.
“Clinton County families know what it’s like to go through tough economic times and we know what it’s like to bounce back,” said Ann Reno, executive chair of the Clinton County Democratic Party, in a statement to the News Journal prior to Trump’s speech.
“The choice in this election is clear: Trump’s reckless plans would cost millions of jobs and devastate the economy. Hillary Clinton would build an economy that works for everyone — not just those at the top. Trump’s empty rhetoric and irresponsible ideas are not welcome here.”
In addition to the Secret Service, law enforcement officers from the Clinton County and Highland County Sheriff’s Offices as well as the Wilmington Police Department were spotted providing security at the event. Clinton County Sheriff’s Office Col. Brian Prickett said afterward, “We had no issues, other than traffic.”
On Thursday before coming to Wilmington, Trump told attendees at the national American Legion convention in Cincinnati that, if he’s elected president, he’ll work on “promoting American pride and patriotism in America’s schools.”
Trump said he wants to work with the group to ensure that the children learn about America’s common values. “We will stop apologizing for America. And we will start celebrating America.”
Trump is also vowing to invest more money in the military to make sure soldiers have the best equipment and medical care.
He’s telling veterans, “I will never let you down.”
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger. The Associated Press contributed to this story.