The election had been over for more than three weeks when President-elect Donald Trump took the stage Thursday night in Cincinnati, but inside the arena it was like the campaign had never ended.
Supporters chanted familiar slogans about Hillary Clinton — “Lock her up” — and illegal immigration: “Build the wall.” They booed the media when Trump criticized “the very dishonest press.”
The rally was, familiarly, interrupted by protesters, whom Trump mocked as they were escorted out by saying they were going “back home to Mom.”
“We shattered that sucker,” he said. “That poor wall is busted up.”
At one point, Trump falsely claimed to have won in a landslide. He also seemed unwilling to let go of campaign grievances, criticizing Ohio’s leaders for not backing his candidacy more strongly.
Trump’s campaign-style rally, the first of several he’s expected to hold during the transition period, is another unconventional move for a president-elect who has delighted in pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in American politics.
“It’s unprecedented,” said Gerhard Peters, co-director of the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Presidents-elect usually give a handful of press conferences and spend their time focusing on the huge task of preparing their administration.”
Trump used the rally to announce his selection of Defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis.
He also signaled that high-octane public events would be key to rallying public support during the coming battles over his agenda in Washington.
“I’m going to need you to fight as hard for these proposals as you fought for this great campaign of ours,” he said.
Trump didn’t try to temper expectations for his administration, instead assuring the crowd that “anything we want for our country is now possible.”
“Now is not the time to downsize our dreams, but to set our sights higher than ever before for our country,” he said. At one point, Trump flatly promised that “things are going to be much better now.”
It was a strongly nationalistic message, and Trump repeated his pledge to put “America first.”
“There is no global anthem, no global currency,” Trump said. “We pledge allegiance to one flag, and that flag is the American flag.”
Although Trump has not expressed regret for some of the racially charged rhetoric of his campaign, he pledged to “find common ground” as president and claimed, “We spend too much time focusing on what divides us.”
“We condemn bigotry and prejudice in all of its forms,” Trump said at one point.
Cincinnati was Trump’s second stop on his “thank-you tour.” Earlier in the day he was in Indiana, where he touted a deal with Carrier, a heating and cooling company, to ship fewer jobs to Mexico. The agreement keeps 1,100 jobs from moving in return for $7 million in state tax breaks over several years.