DELAWARE, Ohio (WCMH) — It was on a different Pennsylvania Avenue than where he lived for four years, but former President Donald Trump asserted his influence all the same.
A raucous crowd cheered on the 75-year-old Saturday evening at the Delaware County Fairgrounds (236 Pennsylvania Ave., just off U.S. 23), where Trump attacked liberal policies and politicians, continued pushing falsehoods about his loss in 2020 and rallied for choice Republicans in Ohio’s May 3 primary that’s just 10 days away.
Trump used much of his 90-minute speech to attack President Joe Biden and other Democrats on as many issues as could fill a civics textbook, including inflation, the U.S.-Mexico border, energy, education, COVID-19 mandates and Russia.
“The left is horrible on foreign policy, horrible on the economy, horrible on the border and horrible on crime,” he said. “Other than that, they’re doing a wonderful job.”
Mentioning Ohio throughout the speech, Trump, who won the state twice by 8 percentage points, noted Ohio’s decades-long industrial decline and said Republicans he endorsed Saturday will push back on jobs being sent overseas.
“With a Republican Congress, we will fight for more jobs for Ohio families, fair trade for Ohio workers and more Ohio factories forging more products stamped with that beautiful phrase: ‘Made in the USA,'” he said.
Trump also acknowledged Ohio’s fossil fuel resources when complaining of the Biden administration’s clean energy policies, and he briefly mentioned recent shootings in Columbus when talking about increases in violent crime.
“Rallies are a nice substitute for him” after being banned from Twitter in early 2021, said Paul Beck, professor emeritus of political science at Ohio State University.
“I think he always has favored rallies and likes the kind of ambience that occurs at a rally,” Beck told NBC4 on Friday, as well as the “unwavering support he gets from people who are attending the rallies.”
Trump’s speech was heavy on storytelling and boasting of past accomplishments, but it was also peppered with exaggerations and falsehoods. Multiple times the former president brought up the “rigged and stolen” 2020 election, a claim that has long been debunked.
The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Safety Agency, for example, said after the election, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
Dozens of audits, investigations and court decisions, especially in states Biden won by slim margins, also found no evidence to give Trump the win.
When attacking Biden, Trump claimed gas prices continue to climb higher after soaring above $4 per gallon earlier this year. But data tracked by GasBuddy shows the average gas price has dropped 14 cents in the past month nationwide and 26 cents in the Columbus area.
Trump’s local picks featured
U.S. Senate candidate JD Vance, Trump’s highest-profile endorsee in Ohio, appeared with him on stage and headlined the first set of speakers. Vance, an author and venture capitalist, criticized Trump during his 2016 presidential run but later became a fan.
“It took me a little bit longer to come along to the president,” Vance told the crowd, but he said he warmed up to Trump as he prioritized being hard on China, cutting taxes and fighting abortion.
“But, ladies and gentlemen, the thing that Trump revealed more than any policy achievement is that we are living in an incredibly corrupt country,” Vance said.
For most of the Republican primary, Vance has polled third behind top-tier performers Mike Gibbons and Josh Mandel, but a Trafalgar Group poll conducted before Trump’s endorsement put Vance in second. And a poll by Vance’s Super PAC after the endorsement gave him the lead by 7 points.
“He’s a guy that said some bad **** about me,” Trump said Saturday, “But you know what? Every one of the others did also. In fact, if I went by that standard, I don’t think I would have ever endorsed anybody in the country.”
A February survey by Emerson College pollsters commissioned by NBC4 found more than 6 in 10 likely GOP primary voters would be more likely to support the Trump-endorsed candidate.
“I think that the Trump endorsement is going to be the deciding factor in the contest,” Beck said.
Trump-endorsed congressmembers from central Ohio Troy Balderson (OH-12) and Mike Carey (OH-15) also spoke Saturday. Balderson told the crowd “your wallets were bigger and your families were safer” under Trump, and Carey thanked the former president for his endorsement in last year’s 15th District special election.
“In that 11-way primary, President Trump’s endorsement of me cleared the field, and we won by double digits,” Carey said.
Trump-endorsed Northeast Ohio congressional candidates Max Miller (OH-7) and Madison Gesiotto Gilbert (OH-13) spoke, too.
Trump, the most powerful Republican when he was president and someone who is still seen as the party’s leader and kingmaker in the 2022 elections, was not joined by Ohio’s top Republican.
Gov. Mike DeWine was diagnosed with COVID-19 a week ago and went into quarantine. Before getting sick, however, he was scheduled to be at a 200th birthday celebration Saturday in southwestern Ohio for former President Ulysses S. Grant.
Ohio Auditor Keith Faber and Secretary of State Frank LaRose, both of whom Trump endorsed, attended the rally and were noted by Trump in his speech.
The Delaware event was Trump’s first in Ohio since last June, but his people may have originally planned it to be near Akron. Portage County’s fair board, however, rejected a request for a rally to be held at its county fairgrounds the last week of April.
Saturday was Trump’s 16th rally since leaving office, his seventh rally of the year and his third this month, after stumping for candidates in Michigan and North Carolina. He’ll be in Nebraska on Friday.