Waukesha — Wisconsin Republican voters roundly rejected Donald Trump in the April 5 primary, handing Ted Cruz a victory of more than 13 percent. Conservative talk show radio hosts locally and statewide firmly denounced him and his views.
But any signs of disunity were nowhere to be found among Wisconsin Republicans at the Trump rally Wednesday night, Sept. 28, in Waukesha. Local voters, as well as those from other states and other parts of Wisconsin were unified in their animosity toward Hillary Clinton and what her presidency would look like.
“Hillary should be in jail for everything she's done. I believe in God, and I think that's one thing our country is missing is God,” said Evan Barczynski of Menomonee Falls before Trump took the stage at the Waukesha County Expo Center. “People who vote for Hillary are godless.”
Lines outside the expo center stretched to the far end of the parking lot, and several people who waited in line were turned away when the building filled to capacity with a standing-room-only crowd. A sea of Trump flags and multicolored "Make America Great Again" hats stretched from wall to wall inside.
John Macy, chairman of the Republican Party of Waukesha County, said that although many Wisconsin Republicans — himself included — voted against Trump in the primary, they will vote for him in the general election in November.
“I don't believe for a minute that the people in Waukesha County are not going to show up at the polls and vote for Donald Trump," Macy said. “Are they going to put up a Trump sign? Not necessarily. But when they get in that ballot box, and they look at that ballot, and they see they get to vote for Hillary and four more years of the Obama stuff, or they get to vote for a change, they will absolutely vote Trump.”
One undecided voter, Alice Whitmore of North Prairie, said she typically votes Republican but has occasionally crossed party lines in the past 10 or 15 years. She said she votes based on issues and not just by party. She isn't sure who she is voting for in this election.
“The whole election cycle to me has been kind of a circus," she said. "I'll have to give some more thought and listen to the next couple debates that are coming up and do some more reading and hopefully make an educated vote.”
Despite the optimistic tone of Trump supporters in the room, the Republican nominee might have ground to make up if he wants to win Wisconsin. Trump is polling 5 points behind Clinton among registered Wisconsin voters, according to a Marquette Law School poll conducted about a week and a half ago. Pollsters questioned 802 registered Wisconsin voters, and the poll had a margin of error of 4.8 percent.
Local Republicans speak
Speakers at the rally included a who's who list of Wisconsin Republican heavyweights, including Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who said Republicans are ready to move on and vote for Trump.
“Nobody could connect to the American people like Donald Trump could. We're about 40 days out or so from election day," he told the audience. "I'll tell you what I'm seeing on this side that I'm not seeing on the other side: I'm seeing an energized base. I'm seeing a base that can't wait to kick the door down and cast a vote to make Donald Trump the next president of the United States.”
Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow told a vocally supportive audience that Trump is capable of getting a majority of Wisconsin voters to vote for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time since Ronald Reagan's second term in 1984.
“Are you ready to stop listening to the lies of Hillary Clinton?” he asked to wild applause. “Are you ready to stop the third term of the Obama administration?”
Cathy Steep, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, appealed to female voters, a group polls show Trump has struggled to connect with.
“I'm here to talk to all of the women in the crowd. I especially see a lot of faces of strong intelligent women,” Steep said. “Smart women that I know vote for people based on policy, not anatomy.”
Other speakers included state Rep. Adam Neylon of Waukesha, former Sen. Robert Kasten and former Gov. Tommy Thompson. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani also spoke and introduced Trump.
During his nearly 45-minute speech, Trump offered little detail about his policy prescriptions if elected. Instead, he chose to focus mainly on the perceived wrongs committed by Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
“The only people Hillary Clinton ever fights for are the special interests that write checks for her,” he said to frequent chants of his name. “We're (the country) being run by incompetent Americans, and Hillary Clinton is the most incompetent of them all.”
Between attacks on his Democratic rival, Trump discussed his priorities if he becomes the next president. His policies will lower crime, increase jobs and lower taxes, he said. His administration also plans to restore and repair the broken infrastructure in the U.S. He also reiterated his long-held promise that a wall will be built along the southern U.S. border, and Mexico will pay the total costs.
“We have six weeks to make every dream you ever dreamed about your country come true,” he told the crowd. “Don't let it slip away. We have one chance. This is it. We don't have four more years. They'll start appointing justices of the Supreme Court."
Trump's best-received comments of the night were his accusations against Clinton, whom he called corrupt and untrustworthy. Several times during the night, the crowd broke into chants of "Lock her up!"
“From now on, it's going to be America first. These special interests totally control Hillary Clinton. She's their chosen representative,” he said. “The only people Hillary Clinton has ever delivered for are her donors.”