In a speech before a wildly enthusiastic crowd, billionaire and GOP presidential contender Donald J. Trump bounced from one subject to another in a stream-of-consciousness speech.
Some of it was familiar ground – criticism of the news media, Hillary Clinton, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (his principal opponent in Tuesday’s Ohio primary) and his insistence that, as president, he will build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico “and make Mexico pay for it.”
And, in his 50-minute speech – which included a short question-and-answer period – he broke some new ground, especially for his Cincinnati area audience , telling the people that Reds legend Pete Rose should be allowed into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
“Pete Rose – let him in, right?,” Trump said to cheers from the crowd. “Charlie Hustle, right. Great player. What’s it been? 30 years now?”
He saved some of his sharpest barbs for Kasich, who is working hard to win his home state Tuesday and all of its 66 delegates.
“I like John; he’s a nice guy,’’ Trump said. “But he says he’s never seen my rallies. He says he doesn’t watch television. He says he just watches the Golf Channel. I like the Golf Channel, but you can’t tell me he doesn’t watch the news.”
Saturday, Kasich told the media at a campaign event in Sharonville that the violence that has broken out at Trump rallies around the country – including a Friday night rally in Chicago that had to be postponed because of violent confrontations – traces back to Trump’s divisive rhetoric.
Trump, Kasich said, has created “a toxic atmosphere.”
“Now he’s playing the good guy,” Trump said of Kasich Sunday afternoon at the Savannah Center in West Chester. “But did you see the first two debates? He went after me viciously.”
And he hit Kasich for voting for the North American Free Trade Agreement while in Congress – an issue that still resonates in Ohio, especially with union workers, who say international trade agreements have cost Ohio thousands of jobs.
It was apparent that the Trump campaign gave out far more tickets to Sunday’s event than the Savannah Center could hold; and long lines of Trump fans were waiting to get in and never did.
Trump, when he took the stage, said he felt bad about that and asked if they had set up speakers outside so those people could hear.
“They did?,’’ Trump said. “Good. We love you people outside.”
Earlier, while the crowd inside was waiting for Trump to arrive, a few hundred protestors gathered in a set-aside “protest area” in front of the Savannah Center. There were some shouting matches between the protestors and Trump supporters, but no violent confrontations.
Shortly after Trump began speaking, two persons – a woman and a man – created a brief disturbance. The man was carrying a sign for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. They were booed heavily by the crowd and led out of the hall by police officers.
As he does at most rallies, Trump pointed to the riser in the back of the room where the media cameras and writers were working.
“Do you know who is really dishonest?,” Trump said. “The media. They write stories that are totally untrue.
“You have to be able to sue a newspaper, get them to change and get some money,’’ Trump said
Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones who, like Trump, has hammered at the issue of illegal immigration, made a brief speech to the standing-room-only crowd inside the Savannah Center.
“Our county can make a difference,’’ Jones said. “Don’t let our votes be stolen from us.
“Don’t let somebody in a smoke-filled room prevent us from choosing our president,’’ Jones said, referring to the possibility of Trump coming up short of the required number of delegates and the nomination being decided at the GOP convention in Cleveland in July.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil was there – front and center – and Jones called him out, telling the crowd that Neil – a Democrat – is, like him, a Trump supporter.
Polling in the critical Ohio GOP primary has been all over the map over the past two weeks, but the latest – an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Sunday – had Kasich leading Trump by six percentage points.
At stake are 66 delegates – delegates Kasich needs desperately if he is to keep his presidential campaign alive.