At Janesville Holiday Inn Express, amid protests and campaign staff upheaval, Donald Trump rallied more than 2,000 exuberant supporters, with repeated attacks on Gov. Scott Walker.
Trump’s policy positions, such as a border wall and temporary stay on taking in new Muslim refugees, were interspersed with criticisms of Walker’s management of the Wisconsin economy and budget.
Calling himself a “messenger for a bigger movement,” Trump bashed his presidential rivals and the Republican establishment for their continued, concentrated attacks on him, which he said totalled $68 million in negative ads. Walker, who endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, earlier that day, received a share of the criticism from Trump.
“[Walker] wants to tell people he’s doing a good job, but he’s not doing a good job,” Trump said. “Walker comes in on his motorcycle, but the motorcycle guys like Trump.”
Despite his attack on a governor of the same party, attendees did not think Trump went far enough in attacking fellow Republicans. When he mentioned Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, supporters jeered, with several people shouting “Paul RINO,” referring to the disparaging acronym “republican in name only.”
Trump was caught off guard by the crowd’s response and held back from joining in with the crowd’s attacks on Ryan.
“I was told to speak nicely about Paul Ryan,” Trump said.
Trump responded to his campaign manager recently being charged for misdemeanor assault on a reporter. He described the incident as minor and not worth “destroying a man” over.
During the rally, protesters outside the hotel chanting “Black Lives Matter” and anti-Trump slogans clashed with Trump supporters, resulting in several injuries. Police from Madison and Janesville worked to separate the two groups.
Supporters said immigration and the economy were issues that attracted them to Trump. Dalton Anderson, an 18-year-old from Evansville, said Trump’s stance on immigration was his most appealing policy position.
“His attitude of not being politically correct could be a fresh change for our country,” Dalton said. “Trump’s sparked a flame … he’s getting youth involved as well.”
During the rally, Trump said the 100,000 undocumented immigrants in the country are treated better than disabled veterans.
The rally’s tone took a somber turn when the 2005 Miss Wisconsin winner Melissa Young, who was diagnosed with an incurable disease, thanked Trump for sending her a card when she was diagnosed. Fighting back tears, Young said she currently has a do-not-resuscitate order and thanked Trump for ensuring her son went to college through a charitable program.
Trump responded he believed something beautiful would happen to heal Young.
“Such an amazing woman … we’re going to be watching your boy, but hopefully you will be there to watch your boy,” Trump said.