OMAHA, Neb. (CN) — At a rally held inside an aircraft hangar near Omaha’s Eppley Airport, hundreds of enthusiastic supporters and dozens of protestors greeted newly minted presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“We’re tired of being dopes, tired of being the stupid people,” Trump said once he took the stage. “We’re going to make our country great for everybody. We’re going to bring our jobs back. We’re going to have jobs for everybody.”
The 40-minute impromptu speech featured Trump’s typical rambling and boastful style, and was largely subdued except for bursts when he took the stage and when he rallied the troops at the conclusion. The room was nearly silent during a long story about Trump handing out an award at a golf tournament — a different mood than when he reiterated his promise to build a wall along the United States’ border with Mexico.
Repeated references to trade deficits with China and Japan received little reaction from the crowd of several hundred. Trump claimed the event broke an unspecified attendance record, saying over 10,000 people were packed into the small hangar — a feat that was clearly spatially impossible.
Apart from immigration and references to Hillary Clinton, Trump connected with his supporters most when putting down his Republican opponents, all of whom have dropped out of the race.
“I was going to cancel because a lot of people dropped out of this race,” he said, transitioning into a series of barbs to enliven the crowd.
“I will not say he’s low energy,” Trump said of Jeb Bush, posing as a gracious winner to burst of laughter. Of Lindsay Graham, Trump said, “He’s like bad luck, as soon as he endorses someone they drop out.”
For those wondering if Trump’s persona will pivot now that he’s all but wrapped up the GOP nomination, one thing is certain: the reality TV star’s routine will remain far from predictable.
On Thursday night, Trump baffled political observers and angered down-ticket candidates in West Virginia when he told thousands of supporters at a Charleston rally to stay home during the state’s primary election on Tuesday and “save your vote for the general election.” While Trump’s run has so far been the epitome of an untraditional campaign, nobody expected him to tell Republicans to not vote.
The blustery 85-degree afternoon in Omaha certainly felt more like early summer than early November but, despite the weather, Trump didn’t repeat his gaffe from the previous day. Instead, he used the rhetoric to again needle his old opponents in the race for the GOP nomination.
“I like everyone once it’s over,” he said while ticking off a number of his recent endorsements, including one from his old rival Rick Perry. “I won, so I don’t care anymore.”
The rally was interrupted five times by shouts from protestors, all of whom were removed quickly before the situation escalated. Elsewhere in Omaha, unknown vandals painted the words “Dump Trump” atop a grain elevator that borders a busy section of Interstate 80 near the city’s core.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a first-term Republican, took the stage first, with his introduction frequently interrupted by chants of “build that wall” and cries for Trump to take the stage.
When contacted by Courthouse News, Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Vince Powers was quick to point out that Ricketts was an odd choice to introduce Trump. In February, Trump made vague threats against the Ricketts family after it was revealed that Marlene Ricketts, Pete’s mother, had donated $3 million to the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC.
“Was the governor’s endorsement of Trump for president a quid pro quo so that the Ricketts family skeletons stay in the closet?” Powers wondered.
More than likely, however, this was a matter of mending fences before the election.
The two played nice, sort of, with Trump sporadically needling Ricketts about his family throughout. “I like him so much, I’m starting to like the Cubs again,” Trump said, referencing the baseball team owned by the Ricketts family.
The event was hosted at a hangar owned by Werner Enterprises, a publicly traded freight carrier and transportation logistics company headquartered in Omaha. Tucked on a winding access road near the airport, the event lacked the fireworks outside that have been widely reported at other Trump rallies.
The Nebraska Republican Party holds its primary election on May 10.
Although the GOP presidential field cleared considerably this week, with both Ted Cruz and John Kasich suspending their campaigns following yet another Trump victory in Indiana, local Republicans still fetl the rally had value.
“I believe having the presumptive Republican nominee in Nebraska will rally and energize people leading to Tuesday’s primary election,” Bud Synhorst, executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party, told Courthouse News.
Many of those in attendance were more effusive in their hopes, pledging to help elect a full slate of Republicans in the fall.
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