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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

Trump In Sharonville: Hillary Clinton A "Dirty, Rotten Liar"

Tana Weingartner
Donald J. Trump at Sharonville Convention Center

SHARONVILLE - If there are Republicans who were waiting for a toned-down Donald Trump, reading carefully written speeches from a teleprompter, he didn't show up here Wednesday night.  

At least he was nowhere to be seen when he spoke before a crowd of thousands of cheering and adoring supporters at the Sharonville Convention Center Wednesday night.

He gave a stream-of-consciousness speech that careened from one topic to another, much to the delight of the thousands in the convention center's main hall. 

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Trump supporters pack Sharonville Convention Center

Instead of a script, he had plenty of red meat to throw to the crowd – mainly about the fact that Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and Trump's opponent, was not charged with any crimes by the Justice Department over the use of a private e-mail server for some classified documents.

And he did it with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is being considered as a possible running mate for Trump, who introduced him to the crowd and took his own shots at Clinton over the private e-mail server.

Trump stepped around the question of whether or not Gingrich would be his running mate.

"In one way or another, Newt Gingrich is going to be involved in our government,'' Trump said, pulling up short on the vice presidential question.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Newt Gingrich: Possible VP candidate?

  For a while, the crowd chanted "Newt! Newt! Newt!"

Trump started his speech by lighting into Clinton over the e-mail investigation.

"She has made so many false statements," Trump told the cheering crowd. "Is she going to be brought before Congress at some point?"

FBI Director James B. Comey Jr. said Tuesday that the FBI investigation showed that Clinton broke no laws but showed "extremely careless" e-mail practices.

Clinton, Trump said, "is a dirty, rotten liar."

"In November, when you get to vote, when you look at terrorism, you look at her bad decision-making,'' Trump said. "Bernie Sanders said that. Bad decision making. She is a dirty, rotten liar."

He complained about the fact that it came out in the investigation that Clinton's lawyers wiped out over 30,000 e-mails.

"They can be found if you have the right people looking,'' Trump said. "We've probably got a couple of super-geniuses in this room who could find them."

"The only good thing Hillary Clinton has ever done,'' Trump said, "is getting out of trouble when anybody else would be going to jail."

It was a typical Trump speech – off the cuff, and bouncing from one topic to another. At one point, he was talking about the late former leader of Iraq Saddam Hussein, seemingly praising him for "killing terrorists,'' but quickly adding that he opposed him and his regime in Iraq.

Then he began talking about immigration – particularly Syrian refugees, whom he said "are pouring into this country." He said he wants to build safe havens for them in their own country.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Trump spoke for nearly an hour at Sharonville

 "There are many people coming into this country who are Trojan Horses," Trump said. "And we have a president who won't say 'radical Islamic terrorists.' How are we going to deal with this is we have a president who won't even say the words."

Gingrich's short speech was seen by some as an audition for the vice presidential nomination. The former House speaker, who orchestrated the GOP takeover of the House in 1994 with his Contract With America, spoke to the crowd before Trump; and spent much of his time bashing Clinton for the fact that she will not be charged in the FBI investigation of her use of a private e-mail server to send classified documents.

"Is there a single person in this room who believes that if you had done what Hillary Clinton has done that you would not be prosecuted?,'' Gingrich said. "Enough of lying to us about a person who obstructed justice and who, by any measure of justice, would be facing a grand jury at this moment rather than running for president."

The room at the Sharonville Convention Center was packed with several thousand people. Trump claimed during his speech that there were another 2,000 in an overflow room and that he intended to go talk to them after the main speech. His speech, he said, was being broadcast to many others outside who couldn't get in the building.

While waiting for Trump and Gingrich to enter the hall, several thousand Trump fans listened to nearly three hours of recorded music, everything from Luciano Pavoritti's recording of Nessun Dorma to the Rolling Stones' "Time Is On My Side."

In this period between clinching the nominations and the upcoming presidential nominating conventions, the two major party candidates are making a habit of campaigning in southwest Ohio with potential running mates at their side.

On Monday, June 27, it was Clinton holding a rally before about 2,600 supporters in the rotunda of the Museum Center at Union Terminal, with many more unable to get in and listening outside through loudspeakers on the Museum Center's esplanade. Clinton had with her Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, said to be on the short list of potential vice presidential candidates.

Wednesday night in Sharonville, it was Gingrich, the former House speaker, who is said to be among the leading candidates for the vice presidential running mate position. That's despite the fact that Gingrich has had some high profile disagreements with the billionaire developer, most recently over Trump's complaints that the judge hearing the court case against his Trump University was of Mexican descent.

CNN has reported that Trump will announce his running mate choice sometime next week, the week before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Others who are under serious consideration for the number two spot on Trump's ticket are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who is up for re-election this year.

Before the rally inside the Sharonville Convention Center's large second-floor hall, Trump met downstairs privately with a group of donors – people who paid anywhere from $2,700 to $25,000 to spend time with the presumptive GOP nominee. Those who paid $25,000 got to sit in on a roundtable discussion with the candidate, have their pictures taken with him, and attend a general reception.

This was Trump's second visit to Ohio since he lost the Buckeye State's GOP presidential primary in March. Last week, he held a rally of about 5,000 in St. Clairsville in Eastern Ohio, just a stone's throw from West Virginia.

There are likely to be many, many more between now and the Nov. 8 elections – principally the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, starting on July 18. That is where Trump and his running mate will accept their party's nominations.

Ohio has been a key battleground state in presidential elections for many decades; and is considered by many the ultimate bellwether of American presidential politics.

This year is shaping up to be no different.

Most of the polling points to a very close race in Ohio.

Real Clear Politics (RCP), a website which tracks national polling and polling in key battleground states, took the last four polls conducted among Ohio voters and came up with an average lead of 2.5 percentage points in favor of Clinton. Given the margin of error in those polls, that is for all intents and purposes a dead heat.

A Quinnipiac University poll of Ohio voters released June 21 gave Clinton higher marks than Trump on the questions of which candidate is better prepared to be president, which has higher moral standards and which is more intelligent. Trump out-polled Clinton on the following questions – which candidate is more honest and trustworthy, which is more inspiring and which would be a stronger leader.

Before the candidate and Gingrich appeared, Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller took to the stage and attacked Clinton on the decision by the FBI and Attorney General Loretta Lynch not to seek charge against her for use of her private e-mail server for official business.

Clinton was not charged with a crime, Miller said, "because the system is corrupt."

And Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, a longtime Trump supporter, warmed up the crowd with some of the same rhetoric that has made him one of the most well-known opponents of illegal immigration in the country.

"President Obama will tell you our borders are secure,'' Jones said. "They are not. Hillary Clinton will tell you the same thing. They are not."

Tana Weingartner
Protesters outside Trump rally in Sharonville

  Outside the convention center, a handful of protestors peacefully carried signs and made their displeasure with Trump known.

Dominic Lijoi of Butler County carried a sign reading, "Trump Leading Liar" on one side. He was encouraging people to check Trump's record on the Politfact.com watchdog website.

"Sixty percent of what he says is lies, according to Politifact, false statements and 'pants on fire' statements,'' Lijoi said.

Pam Smith of Middletown also carried anti-Trump signs. The Bernie Sanders supporter says Trump has no substance.

"All he says is we're going to win, we're going to look into this,'' Smith said. "And then he repeats it, the same thing, two or three times in a row. He has no real plan to help the middle class. Nothing."

Reporter Tana Weingartner contributed to this report.