VANDALIA — More than a thousand people flooded the Dayton Airport tarmac on Election Eve to see Donald Trump speak. In between the flight hangars organizers set up bleachers and jumbotrons that would later show power point presentations. Flags or bunting covered every flat surface that wasn’t moving.
At about 8:30 p.m., Trump’s plane landed and taxied up behind the podium — “TRUMP” in big gold letters serving as a backdrop for his speech. After months of flirting with a 2024 presidential bid, he teased a “very big announcement” Nov. 15 at Mar a Lago.
The question of whether Trump would make any campaign announcement before or after the 2022 Election has been debated for months amid speculation over its potential impact.
“We want nothing to detract from the importance of tomorrow, you understand,” Trump said.
Trump’s campaign trail visit to Ohio comes as he faces a U.S. Department of Justice criminal probe over classified records recovered by the FBI at his Florida home Mar-a-Lago in August. During the court-approved search, the FBI seized more than 11,000 documents including about 100 marked as classified.
The federal investigation revolves around whether Trump illegally removed documents from the White House when he left office and whether he tried to obstruct the probe. The documents themselves have been reported to include material on foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities, Iran’s missile program, and U.S. intelligence work aimed at China.
The opening act
Before Trump took the stage, Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and a big chunk of the Ohio congressional ticket warmed up the crowd. U.S. Senate nominee J.D. Vance spoke emphasizing inflation, border policy, and drugs — his usual themes on the campaign trail.
U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan, Mike Turner, Warren Davidson, Mike Carey took turns, and congressional nominees Max Miller and J.R. Majewski spoke, too.
A handful of media outlets hinted at Trump perhaps choosing the evening as the venue to announce another presidential bid in 2024. He didn’t.
In such a broad open space, the crowd’s response seemed remarkably tepid. But the lines that exercised them most had to do with revenge and aggression. Greene’s line about Trump “ending dynasties” got the crowd going as she listed off Liz Cheney, the Clintons, and in 2024, the “Obama-Biden dynasty.”
Majewski taunted Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Tim Ryan over his call to “confront and kill the MAGA movement.”
“Well, Timmy,” he said, “If you’re watching, and I know you are, there’s a whole lot of MAGA going on right now in Dayton, Ohio.”
“You should come on down here,” he added. “I double dog dare you.”
Trump’s speech was true to form — long on perceived slights and longer on his administration’s accomplishments. Of his first impeachment, he said “the conclusion was no collusion,” and then veered hard into cruelty.
“Do you think Biden can say that?” he teased. The president has long struggled with a stutter.
“I give him a 2% chance of getting that one,” Trump added. Later they played a supercut of Biden stumbling over his words on the jumbotron.
When he wasn’t talking about himself, Trump bragged about recent polling that’s positive for Vance.
“What the hell am I doing here?” he barked jokingly.
And Trump took aim directly at Vance’s opponent, Ryan, who has run ads touting the times he has sided crossed the aisle to side with Trump.
“Now he’s going to say Trump is great, I agree with all this, I love Trump, I think he’s wonderful,” Trump said.
“I don’t know the gentleman,” Trump went on, “But I can tell you this — he’s not for us. He’s a radical left lunatic who’s now trying to jump on the bandwagon.”
The most notable moment, however, was likely Trump calling Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on stage to speak. Some in the crowd began to boo at the first mention of the governor, and as he touted his administration’s record cutting taxes and funding police, those jeers grew. DeWine finished his remarks quickly.
“Well that was a very nice welcome,” Trump joked sarcastically. “But he’s up by 25.”
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