Thousands of people Wednesday gathered at the State Fairgrounds to cheer Donald Trump, the first of the three remaining Republican presidential candidates to visit Indiana.
Trump turned his attention early to the issue of trade, particularly the decision by Carrier Corp. to close its Indianapolis plant and move its operations to Mexico.
“We’re gonna build the wall,” Trump said, drawing cheers from the audience as he referred to his pledge to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. “And you know, when Carrier that left here goes to Mexico and they want to sell their product, we’re going to say ‘Sorry folks we have a nice strong border, we have a nice strong wall, we’re going to charge you a 35 percent tax after what you did.'”
Trump is the first presidential candidate to make an appearance in Indiana, and comes less than two weeks before the state primary on May 3. But he won’t be the last. Sen. Ted Cruz is scheduled to speak at an Indiana Republican party fundraising dinner on Thursday.
State lawmakers Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Terre Haute, Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, and Rep. Bob Morris, R-Ft. Wayne attended the event.
A few protesters gathered outside the rally as early as noon. By the time the event started at 3:00 p.m., close to 60 people with signs protesting both Trump and Indiana Governor Mike Pence were congregated outside the event.
Trump met with Pence in a private meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Crowd of protesters has grown to about 60 people pic.twitter.com/8baNVb7uqI— Drew Daudelin (@drewdaudelin) April 20, 2016
Kathleen Walsh says she’s been following the presidential race closely, watching all of Donald Trump’s speeches online. She drove from LaPorte to hear Trump speak in person. Walsh says she supports the New York businessman and reality star because she thinks he’s the only candidate who won’t be controlled by lobbyists.
“All of the politicians are controlled by the lobbyists and we just now learned that through him, that it’s a controlled government,” Walsh says. “And we feel that with him, he’s a guy that’s no nonsense; he’s common sense.”
On the other side, Cheryl Laux came to protest the rally to show people that not everyone in Indiana supports Donald Trump and what she calls his hateful agenda.
“You know, like saying women need to go to jail that have abortions. It’s a constitutional right for women to have abortions in this country,” Laux says.
Indiana Democrats seized on the visit as an opportunity to criticize Trump, as well as the other Republican presidential hopefuls.
“Let’s be clear here. Trump didn’t really hijack the Republican Party here. This is a result of years of extreme ideology, dangerous language and divisive rhetoric coming out of the GOP,” says John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democrats.
U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indiana, says that while “Trump is the GOP without the wrapping paper,” singling him out for harsh rhetoric on immigration and other issues, “We have to make sure we don’t let other Republicans off the hook simply because of how terrible Mr. Trump has been.”
As one of the few Muslim members of Congress, Carson has been outspoken on Trump’s call to ban any Muslim from entering the country.
“His remarks are toxic. Our country is not at war with Islam or any other religion for that matter. Our country is at war with those who seek to do us harm,” Carson says.
Early in-person voting is happening now in Indiana and will continue through May 2 at noon. The deadline to submit an application for an absentee ballot by mail is April 25. Polls open on primary day, May 3, at 6 a.m.