MILWAUKEE (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — President Donald Trump left Washington for the Midwest on Tuesday, holding a campaign rally in Milwaukee.
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Dana Kozlov reported, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panther Arena, at 400 W. Kilbourn Ave. in Milwaukee, was packed. Most of the 12,000 people in attendance stayed put for President Trump’s roughly 90-minute speech, given characteristically off the cuff.
President Trump also accused Democrats of wanting to ruin America, in a state that could be key come November.
There were thunderous cheers as President Trump took the stage for the “Keep America Great” rally. He told the crowd America is now the envy of the world and touted the economy – an issue that often decides elections.
“Under just three years of my administration, 3.5 million people have joined the workforce – and nobody believed that was possible,” President Trump said.
At the start of his speech, President Trump focused in large part on military victories and in particular talked up the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. President Trump also criticized the Democrats, accusing members of the party of not being supportive of the killing.
“Crazy Bernie Sanders and the Democrats – by the way, Bernie is surging – but the Democrats are outraged that we killed this terrorist monster, even though this monster was behind hundreds and hundreds of deaths,” the president said.
President Trump added that many people do not have legs or arms because of acts of violence by Soleimani, whom he went on to call “this son of a bitch.”
The president also briefly addressed a controversy involving Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Warren released a statement Monday night alleging that fellow 2020 contender Senator Bernie Sanders told her he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency during a meeting in 2018. Her statement came hours after CNN reported the alleged comment, which Sanders denies.
“She said that Bernie said a woman can’t win – I don’t believe he said that, I really don’t…. (But) if you want to keep America safe, just vote Republican,” President Trump said. “We’re doing so well.”
On the subject of his impeachment, he said the issue was all over a “perfect phone call” with Ukraine.
“It’s the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on our country, ever,” President Trump said.
President Trump also talked up his tariffs and trade policies. He said it encouraged the manufacturing of appliances such as dishwashers and refrigerators, and then segued to a mockery of environmentally-conscious low-flow bathroom facilities – which President Trump said his administration would do away with requirements for.
“Sinks, toilets, and showers – they don’t get any water,” President Trump said. “They put restrictors on them, and now they made them permanent.”
And on the subject of immigration, President Trump criticized Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deporting members of the gang MS-13 – and slammed Democrats for supporting sanctuary cities. He noted that Milwaukee County itself has a sanctuary policy.
“These jurisdictions release dangerous, violent criminal aliens out of their jails and directly onto your streets, where they are free to rob, attack, and murder American citizens,” President Trump said.
President Trump also touted his approval of a plan to give former prisoners a second chance at life – which he said Presidents Obama and Bush could not accomplish.
“It’s helped a lot of people – it’s a different world,” the president said.
The president further touted progress in combating the opioid addiction epidemic.
“In 2018, drug overdose deaths – overdose deaths – fell for the first time in decades, including by 10 percent in the state of Wisconsin; 17, 18, 19, and even 21 percent in a couple of states,” he said.
When a protester briefly disrupted the rally, President Trump had some mocking words.
“She’s going home to mom, where she will be in big trouble,” Trump said, “because I guarantee you mom voted for Trump.”
Other protesters also came into the arena and were escorted out one at a time.
And when President Trump mentioned his 2016 Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton at one point – implicating her as an advocate of regime change wars while he himself was not – the crowd chanted, “Lock her up!”
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) also spoke at the rally, crediting President Trump with making the country and the economy “great,” and saying he deserves reelection.
The rally ended, as President Trump’s rallies often have, with a sounding of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones.
Hours before doors at the arena even opened to the public, President Trump’s supporters lined up by the thousands. Many Illinois residents were among them, adding to the almost sporting event-like atmosphere.
“I’d like to hear more about his economic plan going forward, and how we’re going to continue to stay in this booming economy,” said Brian Davis of Rockton, Illinois.
Mary Jo Davis of west suburban Lombard came with a poster of President Trump in hand.
“No nonsense,” David said. “His delivery may turn people off, but he gets things done.”
Supporters like Davis want to hear more about the president’s plan for the country – in a state where just last year he helped break ground on the $3 billion subsidized FoxConn plant in nearby Mount Pleasant.
The plant – and its 13,000 jobs – have yet to materialize.
But supporters at the rally said they’re willing to overlook that and other unfulfilled campaign promises – like reviving the coal industry – to keep him in office.
Kevin Sopczak said while the unfulfilled promises do concern him, “At the same time, he’s one of the few politicians that have actually accomplished some of the promises that he’s made instead of none at all. So it’s really good to see some of the accomplishments that he has had had, so I’m very happy for that.”
The Milwaukee visit is the president’s first 2020 campaign trail stop in the Midwest – in a state that could be key.
President Trump narrowly beat Hillary Clinton by less than one percent of the total vote in Wisconsin in 2016, making it a potentially critical state this year.
But while Wisconsin can be a swing state, Illinois is far more reliably blue. So can we expect President Trump to make any public campaign stops in Chicago?
“It’s hard to predict the president’s schedule when it comes to where we’re going to be campaigning, but the road to the White House certainly comes through Wisconsin, and it comes through here in the Midwest,” said Erin Perrine of the Trump campaign. “You will see the president and the campaign on the ground through the rest of 2020.”
As to Chicago specifically, Perrine said, “I can’t confirm anything at this point.”
Perrine said the evidence differs with those who claim the president is a liar.
“I think that this is a president who’s always been honest with the American people,” she said. “There’s no question about where this president stands on absolutely anything.”
Wisconsin is also such an important state that the Democratic Party will hold its national convention in Milwaukee this year. As President Trump spoke on Tuesday night, the leading Democratic candidates had their final debate before the Iowa Caucuses.