BETHPAGE, N.Y. — If Trump lost momentum by losing Wisconsin, you wouldn’t have known it Wednesday night on Long Island.
“It’s great to be home,” the Queens native said, lavishing love on an audience that was ready to give it right back to him.
The at-capacity crowd of 10,000 (Trump tweeted later it was 17,000) showered Trump with cheers and applause at his first major New York rally, chanting “Build the Wall!” and “U-S-A!” multiple times during his shorter-than-usual, 37-minute address.
Trump’s usual riffs on national security were now explicitly tied to New York, with references to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“We all lived through it. We all know people that died,” Trump recalled, before turning around to attack Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for speaking badly of New York's values. "I’ve got this guy standing over there, looking at me, talking about New York values with scorn in his face ... with hatred of New York."
The GOP front-runner invoked the 9/11 attacks a few more times throughout his remarks, praising the police, firefighters, and construction workers for bravery and for helping the city to rebuild.
And of the Texas senator who knocked New York’s values? “Folks, I think you can forget about him,” Trump said to cheers.
While heavier-than-usual security braced inside for protests, there were few interruptions inside Grumman Studio, where the event was held. When protesters did speak up, the crowd dealt with them in a way that was reminiscent of an Islanders game, not a political rally — best exemplified by the chants of "ass–h--e" directed at one protester before Trump came on the stage.
After the rally, Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter told NBC News that two people got in a fight during the rally and were arrested, but no one was injured in the incident.
Meanwhile, outside the rally several hundred officers, some in riot gear, patrolled the roughly 300 protesters, illuminated by flood lights on the unseasonably cold April night. Protests were tense but remained mostly non-violent.
Commissioner Krumpter estimated $300,000 to $400,000 in overtime costs for the event and commended his officers for their work.
Trump was introduced by his daughter Ivanka, who gave birth to her third child less than two weeks ago. She told the crowd her father was “battle tested” and has a “long track record of winning.”
And with new polls out that show Trump with over 50 percent support from Republican voters in the Empire State that record could be extended. Even voters who aren’t completely sure they’re for him, like Eddie Olmsted, say that in New York you have to be for Trump.
Noting that if Kasich were the nominee he’d “vote for him in a second,” Olmsted said he probably won’t vote for the Ohio governor in the primary because “he’s in the background."
“I don’t think this is the place to do that,” the Farmingdale resident told NBC News. “I mean you have to be here, if not to support Trump at least not to take anything away from his moment.”
“This is his night,” he said, noting the excitement. "You can feel it.”