SUPPORTERS LISTEN as President Donald Trump speaks at a Thursday campaign rally at the Huntington Center in Toledo. (AP photo / Jacquelyn Martin)

By LOU WILIN

STAFF WRITER

President Donald Trump was alternately self-congratulatory, flattering his Ohio audience, raging, farcically entertaining and mocking but always the populist in a campaign rally Thursday in Toledo.

At various points he mocked Democratic presidential candidates, railed against illegal immigrants and playfully said he outpolled Abraham Lincoln 53-to-47 percent. He also employed the usual superlatives: “incredible,” “totally demolished,” “the greatest.”

He touted his trade policies as benefiting workers and farmers.

“We will soon be replacing the disaster known as NAFTA with the incredible brand new USMCA, the historic victory for Ohio farmers, workers and manufacturers,” he said.

He said trade deals with South Korea and Japan will be spurring farmers to new production highs.

“Go buy larger tractors,” Trump said to farmers.

Many car companies are coming to Ohio, boosting job numbers in the state, the president said.

“You know that. Lot of (car makers) coming in. Lot of them have already been brought in. They’re coming in from Japan, they’re coming in from all over the world. This is where they want to be,” Trump said. “They want to be in the United States, that’s where the action is.”

Trump said he has been the difference maker for Ohio workers.

“I used to go around talking about how everyone’s leaving. They’re all leaving. A lot of you are victims of that leaving. These companies would leave, they’d go to Mexico. They’d go to Canada. They’d close up, they’d buy from China. Now they’re all coming back. New ones, old ones they’re all coming back and many are coming right here to Ohio.”

“And just in case you didn’t know it, Ohio just had the best year economically in the history of your state,” he said.

His tough stand against the Paris Climate Agreement and support for the coal and steel industries have set him apart from other politicians and benefited Ohio, Trump said.

“For decades career politicians promised to protect the workers of Ohio and they went to Washington and voted for the same globalist policies that devastated your communities and shipped away your jobs. You know that better than anybody, Ohio does,” Trump said. “But the betrayal of Ohio workers and U.S. workers ended the day I took the oath of office, and you see that.”

He cited steel mills making huge investments in Ohio towns like Mingo Junction, Lorain, Cuyahoga Heights, Marion.

“The industry was dead. Now it’s vibrant,” he said. “After years of rebuilding other nations, we are finally rebuilding our nation. We are finally putting America first.”

That spurred a chant of “USA” from the thousands of supporters gathered inside the Huntington Center.

Trump said he kept the Lima Army Tank Plant open.

“I’m proud of this,” Trump said. “So they had this Army tank plant, right, in Lima. And I said, ‘What’s going on?’ They said they’re closing it.”

“I was president-elect, I think, right around that time. And I went to Lima. I went through the factory where they make these trucks, the plant, and they make the tanks and they make all of these armored vehicles, and I said, ‘These people are amazing. You could never close this, you could never reopen it again. They have been doing this for many, many decades and this factory was incredible,” Trump said. “And I looked at the tanks that they’re making, they’re the best in the world, right, the Abrams. They’re the best in the world.'”

He paused.

“‘I said, wait a minute'” — then his voice theatrically rose — “‘If you close this, … Where are you going to build tanks? This is the primary factory in the whole country.’ I think it might be the only factory in the whole country.”

“‘So they’re going to close it. What are we going to do, send over to China for tanks, please? … ‘Please send us 200 tanks,'” he said.

“We don’t want to send you any tanks because we’re going to kick your ass.”

“We gotta make our own tanks, right? We gotta make our own tanks.”

“Based on my instinct, I said, ‘You can’t close this plant,” he said. “I really overrode a lot of talented people who wanted to close it.”

The president grew most heated over immigration.

“On no issue have Democrat politicians more thoroughly betrayed Americans than the issue of illegal immigration,” Trump said. “Far left radical politicians support deadly sanctuary cities demonstrating their contempt, scorn and disdain for everyday Americans and the American family.”

“These jurisdictions release dangerous, violent criminal aliens out of their jails and directly onto your streets where they are free to rob, attack and kill American citizens, but we stop it,” Trump said. “(Democrats) want open borders, can you believe it?”

“Innocent Americans are being brutalized and murdered by illegal alien criminals,” he said.

He was not always serious. At turns, he made it entertaining for his supporters. He talked about his successful 2016 presidential campaign. Then expressed fondness — as if he had nothing to do with it — for signs and other campaign goods with the campaign slogan ‘Keep America Great.’

“Do I want to change the greatest theme in political history, ‘Make America Great Again’ with ‘Keep America Great’?” he asked.

He made it audience participation time.

“So let’s take a little applause, right. We’ll go ‘Make America Great Again.’ You clap if you want that. Then we go ‘Keep America Great.’ You clap if you like that, OK?”

“Are you ready?”

“First: Make America Great Again.”

The thousands of supporters roared approval.

“Ready: Keep America Great.”

They roared more loudly this time.

Trump paused and the crowd chanted “USA.”

“That’s called, you know what I call it: free poll,” he said.

“We’re going to use both!” he said. “We’re going to use both.”

The campaign is off to a strong start, he said.

“Can you believe this: I have a 95 percent approval rating. Can you believe it,” he said. He’s outpaced Ronald Reagan’s 87 percent approval, he said.

He’s outpolled Abraham Lincoln 53 percent to 47 percent, Trump said.

“I can be more presidential than any candidate that ever ran, other than maybe Abraham Lincoln, when he’s wearing his hat,” Trump said.

Wilin: 419-427-8413 Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin

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