His reputation precedes him, along with his attitude and anecdotes and, now, the images of a near-riot that forced cancellation of a campaign stop just the night before.
So when Donald Trump appeared Saturday at a rally outside Dayton, it had the feeling of one of those boisterous homecoming events, with plenty of yelling, sneering and enough swagger and bravado to fill an entire airport hangar.
When his custom Boeing 757 pulled up outside, the soundtrack from the movie “Air Force One” booming so loud it rattled bones, the crowd cheered.
When he stepped from the aircraft and flashed two big thumbs up, the crowd cheered.
When he belittled his rivals, “Little Marco” Rubio and “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, the crowd cheered.
They knew his repertoire, like a concert audience come to hear their favorite hits.
Build a wall along America’s southern border and who will pay for it? “Mexico,” the audience shouted.
Water-boarding is too good for the terrorists threatening the United States. “Drown 'em,” one man hollered.
The Republican presidential hopeful asked the audience of 2,000 or so if they wanted to hear a story — one he maybe shouldn’t tell, he suggested — and they knew which one even before he started. Yes, they screamed, tell it.
The story was the apocryphal account of Army Gen. John J. Pershing killing Muslim terrorist in the Philippines with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. When Trump finished, the crowd shouted its approval.
The rally was the first following the mayhem Friday night in Chicago, so Trump offered his account of what happened. The protests and violence that spilled into the streets was the work of professional agitators, he said, many associated with the communistic Bernie Sanders, the candidate running for president on the Democratic side.
“Frankly, it would have been easier to go,” Trump said, “but I didn’t want to see anybody get hurt.”
His sacrifice, he concluded, was an excellent example of leadership and command under pressure. No one in the audience disagreed.
For some, though, the explanation was wholly unnecessary.
David Rife, one of those who came to see Trump on Saturday, said, yes, he knew all about the upheaval in Chicago.
“Supporters are hyped up and then here comes along some punk or somebody confronting 'em and they don’t want to hear it,” said Rife, 62, who sells construction equipment for a living and dates a steep decline in sales to the instant President Obama took office. It is only just turning around, he said.
No, Rife went on, he didn’t think Trump’s incendiary comments at previous rallies — about punching people, and wanting to see protesters carried out on stretchers — was in any way responsible.
“When he says, ‘Hit that guy, hit that guy,’ hit him!,” Rife said. “Because he’s right. He’s watching it from up there and seeing what’s going on. “
Typical of a Trump rally there were intermittent catcalls and protesters interrupting the candidate. A handful of college-age demonstrators in the far back of the hangar chanted, “Stop the hate!”
At one point Secret Service agents swarmed a startled Trump after a man hurdled a barrier and attempted to take the stage. He was swiftly detained and soon Trump regained his composure.
"I was ready for him, but it's much easier when the cops do the job, don't we agree?" Trump said.
He was interrupted several more times when demonstrators popped up throughout the audience. Trump responded with a characteristic mix of machismo and sarcasm. The protesters were quickly expelled — one pushing a walker — as the crowd took up the chant, “Trump! Trump! “ and “USA! USA!”
“Get him out of here!” he directed security officers as they marched off one demonstrator.
“Go back home to mommy!” he scoffed. “Lock him in his bedroom!”
The crowd roared.
“By the way,” Trump said a few moments later. “Is there anything more fun than a Trump rally?”
The crowd cheered.
Follow @markzbarabak for national & California politics.