US Bank Arena was filled with Donald Trump supporters Thursday night and not once did the crowd chant "send her back" in reference to the four Democratic congresswoman Trump has lambasted in recent weeks.
They didn't have to. Those four weren't mentioned by name – they were simply the "four left wing extremists."
Instead, they were able to jeer the whole Democratic party and, in particular, the Democratic mayors and politicians who run the country's big cities.
Democrats, Trump said in a one hour and 20 minute speech, "are the party, frankly, of socialism. The Republicans are the party of freedom."
"We renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country … never, ever, ever," he said.
The Democratic mayors of the country, according to Trump, who was making his seventh visit to Cincinnati since beginning his run for the presidency in 2015, have been running their cities "with stolen money. It's wasted money and it's a shame."
"For 100 years, it's been one party control in American cities," Trump said. "The Democratic mayors – so many of them are in jail, that's where they are."
It was a typical Trump speech – a stream-of-consciousness talk that bounced from one subject to another with little or no transition.
He did riffs on tariffs, the opioid crisis, Iran, a voyage to Mars, and many more topics.
One minute he was talking about "conditions in (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi's once great city of San Francisco" being "deplorable."
That caused a flashback to the 2016 campaign, when his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, made a serious mistake by calling Trump supporters "deplorables."
"You remember that? 'Deplorable?' '' Trump said, as the crowd booed the mention of Clinton's name. "Crooked Hillary. She is a crooked one. Crooked."
And that set off the chant that was a staple of 2016 Trump campaign rallies: Lock her up! Lock her up!
Trump's speech was interrupted several times by protestors and, once, a supporter who fell ill on the arena floor. Trump called out for a doctor to assist that person.
The protestors – particularly a small group of pro-immigration advocates – started making noise during the speech. Trump, clearly irritated, strode to the other side of the stage and made a motion to security people that clearly was a sign to have them removed.
"You must have a Democrat mayor,'' Trump told the crowd. "Do you have a Democratic mayor?"
Trump said there were "thousands of people" standing outside who could not get in.
"I said, 'Can we put them in the aisles, on the floor, squeeze them in?," Trump said. "No? Must be Democrats in charge."
The arena was full at the start of Trump's speech, but after it went over the one-hour mark, the crowd started to thin out somewhat.
Trump's rally came the day after the two dozen Democrats who are running for his job held nationally televised debates on back-to-back nights; and the incumbent was not about to let those contentious debates go by without comment.
"I was watching the Democrats' debate, both nights, and the Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they did me,'' Trump said. "This morning, that's all the fake news was talking about."
On the surface, Cincinnati would seem an odd place for the president to campaign during this early stage of his re-election campaign.
He only won about 25% of the vote in the city of Cincinnati, and lost Hamilton to Hillary Clinton by a wide margin.
But this rally was not necessarily meant for Cincinnatians – it was aimed at the heavily Republican counties that ring Cincinnati, such as Butler, Warren and Clermont, where Trump is extremely popular and where he must have a big turnout in Nov. 2020 in order to win Ohio for a second time.
By the time the doors were opened to US Bank Arena, long lines of Trump supporters circled the arena and the area in front of Great American Ball Park leading to it.
Some had been there since early morning, hoping for a front row view of the president and Vice President Mike Pence, who were not expected to go on stage until 7 p.m.
The arena has been the venue of two previous Trump rallies – one during the 2016 campaign and a second one after the election in December 2016, part of Trump's nationwide "victory tour."
Thursday night, the eyes and ears of the national media were trained on whether the US Bank crowd of Trump loyalists would stage a repeat of the chants of "send her back" from a recent Trump rally in South Carolina.
Those chants were inspired by Trump's tweets about four women of color who are members of the U.S. House. Trump had suggested that the four women return to their home countries if they didn't like how the U.S. was being run by his administration.
The fact is only one – Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota – was born overseas. She is a native of Somalia and a naturalized U.S. citizen. Another one of the women, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, was born in Cincinnati and grew up in Chicago.
President Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House Thursday, as he was leaving for Cincinnati, that he hoped the crowd at US Bank Arena would not do the "send her back" chant, according to USA Today.
But Trump said he was not sure he could stop them if they did.
"If they do the chant, we'll have to see what happens,'' Trump said. "I don't know that you can stop people."
As it turned out, he avoided mentioning them by name and there was no repeat of the South Carolina chanting.
Days after his tweets and comments about the congresswomen, Trump let loose a barrage of tweets and attacks on a long-time Baltimore congressman, Elijah Cummings, and his city, Baltimore.
Trump steered clear of Baltimore, even when he was hammering at Democratic leaders in the country's largest cities.
Trump told the crowd he was not going to name one of the cities, which brought a laugh from the crowd.
"I'm not going to name one because I don't want to be controversial,'' Trump said.
Trump said the "biggest betrayal by Democrats" is their support of open borders.
"Thanks, Mexico,'' Trump said. "They've got 21,000 soldiers on the border right now. I'm starting to like the Mexicans; they do more for us than the Democrats."
The riverfront area around US Bank Arena attracted a plethora of protests from anti-Trump groups – some well-organized; others spontaneous and stirred by social media posts.
Thursday afternoon, the Ohio Democratic Party held a press conference on the banks of the Ohio River at Smale Riverfront Park to remind people of the area of Trump's promise in the 2016 campaign to help replace the decrepit Brent Spence Bridge.
"We're three-plus years in,'' said Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper. "He had the majority in the Senate and the House for two years and he couldn't do anything about it then."
Hamilton County Democratic Party chair Gwen McFarlin said that "no matter what we may think here in southwest Ohio about this president's attacks on women, attacks on African American members of Congress, attacks on Muslim Americans, on immigrant families, you cannot deny that he continues to break his promises."
Several hundred Trump opponents gathered for a protest rally outside the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, just a few blocks from US Bank Arena.
At about 5:35 p.m. at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport, Air Force One, bearing the president, touched down at the DHL facility, just as the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., was wrapping up a speech aimed at warming up the crowd for the president and Vice President Pence.
Pence had flown in at least an hour earlier, stopping at a Northern Kentucky Skyline Chili parlor.
Trump Jr. told the crowd, which by that time had nearly filled the arena, that Robert Mueller's investigation into allegations of the Trump campaign colluding with Russians to influence the 2016 campaign was "a joke" and a "win" for his father.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin was among the high-ranking Republicans waiting to greet Trump as he came off of Air Force One. Bevin, who is in a tough re-election fight, is counting on Trump to campaign for him personally in Kentucky, where polls show Trump is far more popular than the GOP governor.