Trump wows crowd in Harrington

Video by Doug Curran/Special to the Delaware State News

HARRINGTON – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made bold promises, dished out insults and enraptured an enthusiastic audience Friday in a speech at the Delaware State Fairgrounds.

Mr. Trump, the billionaire businessman who has grabbed the lead in the GOP primary on the strength of his outsider status and political incorrect statements, repeated many of the themes he has cited throughout his campaign, although he had a few Delaware-specific remarks.

“We love to be here. Do we love Delaware?” he asked as way of an opening, which drew loud cheers from the audience.

Thousands of people gathered in the Quillen Arena, some sitting in the bleachers and some standing on the dirt arena in front of the podium. Many had lined up outside hours before.

A representative for Mr. Trump said she could not comment on how many people attended, but the number was clearly in the thousands.

Red, white and blue was everywhere, from the giant American flag on the wall to the flags some people wore as capes.

A sizable number of spectators wore Trump campaign shirts that pledged to “Make America Great Again,” while others wore shirts bashing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

 

Mr. Trump’s trademark “Make American Great Again” hats were a frequent sight.

Some people waiting outside yelled unprintable remarks about Ms. Clinton.

As the thousands waited in the arena for the event to start, with a wide variety of songs blasting from the speakers, spontaneous “U-S-A” chants broke out.

Playing up his connections to the state, Mr. Trump boasted to the audience he pays large sums in taxes in Delaware, which he said is home to 378 of his registered corporate entities.

“I’ve known Delaware for a long time. It’s a great place and we’re going to get rid of all of the bad stuff,” he said.

References to President Obama, fellow GOP candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton drew loud boos, while mentions of the wall he hopes to build at the U.S.-Mexico border resulted in perhaps the most enthusiastic applause of all, as well as chants of “build a wall.”

“Who’s going to pay for it?” Mr. Trump asked.

“Mexico!” the crowd responded.

Mr. Trump arrived by helicopter around 4:30 — 30 minutes behind schedule — and was introduced by campaign chairman Rob Arlett, a Sussex County councilman.

Mr. Trump has put the state on the map, Mr. Arlett roared.

“We matter as a state, you matter as a voter,” he said to the audience.

State Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover, who is running for governor, also spoke. He called Mr. Trump someone with the “strong principled leadership” needed to “fix this government here in Delaware and in Washington, D.C.”

The United States was founded on “the belief when government gets out of our way and let’s us chase our dreams, all of us win,” he said. “Trump understands that better than anybody running, by far.”

During his hourlong speech Mr. Trump blasted China and criticized “stupid leaders” in the United States for not stopping companies from moving jobs overseas.

He repeatedly referenced his patriotism, proclaiming his love for veterans and drawing “U-S-A” chants.

“I love this country,” he said. “This country’s been so good to me.”

Boasts of being “really into the middle class” and promises to lower taxes led to more applause from enthusiastic listeners, many of whom waved campaign signs or hats to show their approval.

Mr. Trump also pledged to bring back manufacturing jobs. Delaware has lost about 6,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At one point, two protesters waved signs stating “Shore don’t like bigots like Donald Trump” and “Will swap 1 Donald Trump 4 10,000 refugees.” Supporters of Mr. Trump tried to hold their “Make America Great Again” signs to block the messages, and at least one protester was escorted out.

An earlier reference to Syrian refugees caused the audience to boo, and Mr. Trump proclaimed the United States would not accept refugees were he president.

Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, has stated his support for President Obama’s plan to house some refugees in the country. He said Thursday he disagrees with many of Mr. Trump’s stances but “it’s good for the system that people have a choice.”

On Friday, President Obama was called “weak,” and Mr. Trump vowed to strengthen the country’s military and combat the Islamic State, boasting he has strategies that will work.

There was little discussion of specifics but many appeals to emotion and a promise that “we’re not going to be the dummies.”

Insults were frequent: Mexico, the media and other political candidates were all on the receiving end.

Mr. Trump referred to Sen. Cruz as “lyin’ Ted Cruz” and called for him and Gov. Kasich to drop out of the race.

He said an election featuring him and Mrs. Clinton would draw record turnout and urged Delawareans to make their voices heard Tuesday.

“I really want to run against crooked Hillary,” Mr. Trump boomed.

He drew a few laughs at one point by calling himself the “king” of banking.

“I know almost as much as the people of Delaware about banking,” he said.

Gerald Sozinski, of Camden, said the speech was impressive. Mr. Sozinski said appeals to jobs, border security and Second Amendment rights interested him, although he’s an independent and so can’t vote in Tuesday’s primary.

Mr. Trump promised audience members he would eradicate Common Core educational standards, create “great health care” and grow the economy.

“You cast that vote, and in four years, and in 10 years and in 25 years from now, you’ll remember this day and you’ll remember Tuesday, more importantly, when you cast your ballot,” he said. “And you can say it was the greatest.”

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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