CINCINNATI (CN) – President Donald Trump held another campaign rally on Thursday, this time in the critical swing state of Ohio, and spoke for well over an hour about a wide range of topics, including the recent Democratic primary debates.
Flanked by banners that read, “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” in front of a massive American flag suspended from the rafters of Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena, the president entered to a deafening ovation.
The boisterous crowd broke into chants on several occasions, but refrained from the “send her back” cheers that dominated headlines two weeks ago.
“Drain the swamp” and “four more years” were popular, but chants of “U-S-A” were repeated throughout the night.
Crowds gathered outside the venue before 1 p.m., with entrance lines wrapped around the building, which was surrounded by Trump merchandise vendors and meme-worthy banners.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elton John and even a number from the musical “Cats” blared from the speakers before Trump arrived, as a steady flow of red, white and blue clad supporters strode past the press area and exchanged leery glances with reporters.
The president was preceded by numerous warm-up speakers, including his son Donald Trump Jr., who told the crowd he knows “it’s hard to be a vocal Trump supporter.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine introduced Vice President Mike Pence, and received a mixed response from the crowd, some of whom booed.
“Donald Trump and Mike Pence have kept their promises,” DeWine said.
“Four more years means more jobs. Four more years means more judges,” Pence said, adding that “it’s gonna take at least four more years to drain that swamp.”
The hats may have changed from “Make America Great Again” to “Keep America Great,” but the tone of Trump’s address to his supporters remained unchanged.
Once the president took the stage, it was obvious the event was a full-fledged campaign rally meant to bolster his support heading into the 2020 election cycle.
Trump repeatedly claimed his administration has accomplished more in its first two and a half years than any “administration in history,” but did not provide specifics.
He also spoke at length about the economy, and mentioned a newly imposed 10% tariff on over $300 million in Chinese goods.
He said until a deal with the country can be reached, “we will be taxing the hell out of China.”
Although there was a designated area for protesters outside the venue, a few managed to get inside and caused brief disruptions.
One set of protesters held up a sign that read “Immigrants Built America,” and while they remained for several minutes in the densely packed crowd, security eventually escorted them out to raucous cheers.
During the incident, Trump backed away from the podium briefly, but returned to ask the crowd, “Do you have a Democrat mayor?”
He asked again, and eventually said, “This is what happens.”
All of the speakers at the event mentioned this week’s Democratic primary debates, while Trump said the candidates spent more time attacking former President Barack Obama than him.
He added that “Sleepy Joe Biden has no idea what the hell he’s doing.”
Seating capacity in the arena is listed at 17,550, and when combined with the standing crowd on the event floor, attendance looked in excess of 18,000.
Trump, who entered the arena at around 7:30, said there were “thousands of people” standing outside, and claimed “tens of thousands” of tickets had been sold for the event.
“We set a new record tonight at this arena,” Trump added.
As he built up toward his conclusion, Trump called the American prescription drug system “rigged,” claimed “we will be curing the AIDS epidemic in America shortly,” and said “the era of economic surrender is over.”
“You must never forget,” he told the crowd, “that the 2020 election is about one thing: it’s about you.”