President-elect Donald Trump launched his so-called “Thank You” tour on Thursday with a signature showboating speech in Ohio, disparaging the media and his political opponents and alternately inciting cheering and booing from the crowd, depending on what he was saying.
At the mention of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Trump smiled and waved as the crowd chanted, “Lock her up! Lock her up!” When he made sweeping statements about his immigration plans, they yelled back, “Build the wall! Build the wall!” When he called the press “brutal” and “extremely dishonest,” he shrugged as the crowd booed. And when he mockingly recalled the moment on November 8 that television anchors realized he had won the election, he stopped speaking, grinned broadly, and waited as the crowd cheered.
In another uncustomary moment, he revealed to the crowd his pick for defense secretary—Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who once said he enjoyed killing people.
The rally in Ohio was the first stop in Trump’s unorthodox post-victory circuit, as he plans to visit all the states he won. Ohio, a critical battleground state, voted for Trump 51.3 percent to Clinton’s 43.3 percent.
Trump’s speech followed an event earlier that day in Indiana, where he boasted about keeping jobs in the U.S. through a negotiation with Carrier, the air conditioner manufacturer that announced plans to ship factory jobs to Mexico in a now-infamous viral video that showed employees reacting angrily. That speech, and the event in Ohio, gave more evidence that the president-elect “prefers campaigning to governing,” as the Huffington Post‘s associate politics editor Marina Fang put it.
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At one point, Trump began explaining his economic and taxation policies and, mid-sentence, veered seamlessly into a self-aggrandizing re-telling of his state-by-state victories on election night.
“We are going to reduce taxes to a point that our—for the middle class especially. But for our companies—and we’re going to reduce the regulations. But if a company wants to still leave the state of Ohio, or Pennsylvania—or how about North Carolina, how well did we do in North Carolina?” Trump said, spreading his arms out as the crowd cheered. “Remember when they said ‘he cannot win North Carolina?’ So we had just won Ohio, Iowa. And we had just won Florida. Breaking news, Donald Trump has won Florida. They say, ‘Whoa!'”
Throughout the event, he pledged to unite Americans and overcome “decades of stalemate and gridlock,” but his rhetoric more closely mirrored the racist and xenophobic speeches he gave on the campaign trail. At one point, he said terrorists were “pouring into our country” and that a “violent crime wave” was sweeping through U.S. cities.
He also railed against a third-party opponent, Evan McMullin, who launched an 11th-hour campaign that many saw more as an attempt to stop Trump than a real bid for the presidency. Ahead of the election, Benjamin Morris of FiveThirtyEight posited that if McMullin won Utah, it could deadlock the Electoral College and force a vote in the U.S. House, where the Republican majority, at the time, seemed strongly enough opposed to Trump that they could theoretically vote for McMullin. Of course, that didn’t happen.
On Thursday, Trump seemed to relish denigrating McMullin, refusing to speak his name. “Remember when they said Donald Trump is going to lose to some guy I’ve never even heard of?” he said. “The people of Utah were amazing, and we trounced them. Hillary came in second, and that guy came in third. What the hell was he trying to prove?”
Trump also vacillated between giving the credit for his victory to the voters and himself.
“Now that you have put me in this position, even if you don’t help me one bit, I’m going to get it done, believe me,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. It would be easier if you helped, but that’s all right. Don’t worry, I’ll get it done.”
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