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Trump rallies supporters in Wisconsin ahead of the Republican National Convention

The former president's speech blasted Biden's policies on the economy and immigration.

RACINE, Wis. (CN) — Former President Donald Trump gave a campaign speech to hundreds of supporters who came to rally around him in a blue-collar enclave of battleground Wisconsin on Tuesday, painting the U.S. as an embattled, violent and corrupt place under the current Democratic administration.

Trump took the stage at Racine Festival Park to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” and immediately referenced a recent report saying he called Milwaukee — the site of the Republican Party’s national convention this July, where Trump will presumably be named the party’s nominee — a “horrible city” during a private meeting with House Republicans.

Wisconsin’s Republican delegation reacted to the report last week by variously qualifying what Trump meant by his statements or denying he said them altogether. Trump did both at that time, at first saying through a spokesperson that he was referring to crime and voter fraud in the city before taking to Truth Social over the weekend to issue a denial.

Trump not only denied the comments again on Tuesday but said Milwaukee was getting the Republican National Convention because of him.

“I’m the one who picked Milwaukee,” Trump said.

Trump’s freewheeling, nearly 90-minute speech was light on specific policy but blasted migrants crossing America's southern border, endless global wars, rampant crime, China, inflation and the larger U.S. economy — all of which he said have become major issues under President Joe Biden.

The former president went into sometimes graphic detail of recent murders alleged to have been committed by migrants in the U.S. illegally, including those of Rachel Morin in Maryland and Laken Riley in Georgia. He additionally blamed migrants, at least in part, for a lack of jobs and affordable housing because the flood of "17 or 18 million" who have crossed the southern border — although official estimates of those numbers are considerably lower. He decried a Biden plan announced Tuesday that would eventually grant citizenship to half a million immigrants.

Recent estimates put the annual inflation rate at around 3.3%, but Trump claimed the actual rate was many times that figure. With the economy in shambles, Trump said he would bring an end to “Bidenomics” and “replace it with MAGAnomics.”

One piece of policy Trump mentioned was a version of the “U.S. Reciprocal Trade Act” first championed during his presidency. No substantial details of the proposal were provided, but it would essentially seek to resolve trade imbalances with other counties — or, as Trump put it, telling other countries that: “you screw us, we screw you.”

The atmosphere on Tuesday felt as much like a rock concert as a political event. Vendors selling food, water and all manner of Trump paraphernalia did brisk business as the former president’s supporters lined up for several blocks in the roughly 90-degree heat hours ahead of his speech.

Some T-shirts for sale at Trump’s rally referenced the former president’s recent conviction in New York of 34 fraud felonies and depicted him as an outlaw — the point being that support for Trump was unwavering among his followers despite his status as a convicted felon.

Trump on Tuesday blamed his recent multifaceted legal troubles on Biden and radical left Democrats, communists, fascists and others he said were collaborating with the president. He claimed that those taking him to court are coming after him because of what he represents.

“Our enemies want to take away my freedom because I will never, ever let them take away your freedom,” he said, prompting peals of applause. “In the end, they’re not after me. Quite simply put, I am just standing in their way.”

Trump's supporters amassed in Racine on Tuesday cheered and jeered in response to the former president’s well-worn digs at the news media, which he claimed was doing all it could to make the enfeebled, senile Biden seem better, including through “clean fake” videos.

Before Trump's speech, large screens near the staging area played, among other things, a video of Trump advising his supporters to vote via all available means, including by mail, to foil Democrats trying to cheat in the election. A switch to paper ballots, same-day voting, voter ID and an era of “secure, beautiful elections” would follow his victory, Trump said in the video.

During his speech, Trump once again falsely claimed that he won Wisconsin in 2020 as he did in 2016. Multiple reviews of the election results and a recount Trump demanded reaffirmed that Biden won the Badger State by about 20,000 votes.

Nevertheless, the state and its 10 electoral votes will likely prove to be crucial for Biden or Trump’s electoral success, as Trump noted.

“We win Wisconsin, we win the whole thing,” he said.

Briefly appearing on stage with Trump on Tuesday was Eric Hovde, an entrepreneur who is running for U.S. Senate later this year against Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic senator who has represented Wisconsin since 2013.

Speakers ahead of Trump included Wisconsin Republicans from state and federal government, among them former governors Scott Walker and Tommy Thompson and U.S. Congressmen Bryan Steil and Derrick Van Orden.

Also giving remarks on Tuesday was biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who participated in early debates before dropping out of the Republican primary race. He said the country was at a “1776 moment” and that Trump is “the George Washington of our moment.”

Much of the recent forecasting of Biden and Trump’s electoral odds show either a toss-up between them or an edge for Trump. One poll released on Monday by the Des Moines Register paints a more troubling picture for Biden: felony convictions notwithstanding, Trump holds a double-digit lead over the president in Iowa.

Trump’s Racine trip comes a little more than a month after President Joe Biden rallied in the same area to tout Microsoft’s plan to make major investments in AI infrastructure in the region.

Follow @cnsjkelly
Categories / Elections, Politics, Regional

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