Trump campaigns to eager crowd in southern Illinois, calling state 'such a special place'
MURPHYSBORO, Ill. -- President Donald Trump went ahead with a campaign stop Saturday afternoon in downstate Illinois, condemning the deadly attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue as evil before moving on to praise Illinois and his policies for the state and country.
The president was greeted by thousands of supporters, many of whom packed into the hangar of Southern Illinois Airport, exceeding its stated capacity of 600. It was a sea of red -- red MAGA hats and red shirts.
"Illinois is such a special place," Trump told the cheering crowd.
"Hundreds of Illinois steelworkers are back on the job," he said. "... Your steel industry was dead as a doornail, but now it's doing great." He did not cite statistics.
People crowded in front of the stage, standing for hours waiting for Trump to arrive, not tiring or getting impatient. The back of the hangar was open, and all the people who couldn't get into the rally directly were allowed to press up against the gates.
Trump said he considered canceling his southern Illinois trip and his earlier stop at the National FFA Organization conference in Indianapolis because of the synagogue shooting, but he said he ultimately decided "we can't make these sick, demented, evil people important."
"The era of economic surrender is over," he said.
The president was in this downstate town about 8 miles west of Carbondale to campaign for U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, who is in a tight race with Democrat Brendan Kelly of Swansea. U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of Plano also briefly appeared on stage with Trump.
Absent from the stage was Gov. Bruce Rauner, though he was at the rally, showing up to support Bost a few hours earlier in a leather vest and a baseball cap emblazoned with the words "Back the Blue," the Chicago Sun-Times reported. It wasn't clear if Rauner had any interaction with Trump during the visit. A spokeswoman for the governor's office referred questions to campaign representatives who did not return messages seeking comment.
Trump's campaign noted the Murphysboro rally was his third in Illinois since he kicked off his presidential run in 2015, the Sun-Times reported. Rauner skipped Trump's appearance at a downstate steel plant in July in favor of a full slate of other public appearances, with the governor's office saying then that the White House knew Rauner "couldn't be there anyway." Democratic gubernatorial challenger J.B. Pritzker slammed Rauner for attending Saturday's rally, calling it "a last-ditch photo op" 10 days before the election, the Sun-Times reported.
Meanwhile, Trump campaigned generally for Republicans nationwide.
"The choice for every American this November is between resistance and results," he said.
He called the 2018 election "the election of common sense." "This election is about borders and about jobs," he said.
Outside the hangar, a video played on two big screens outside the hangar that told people if they spied anyone in the crowd not supporting Trump, they should surround that person, hold up their placards and chant "Trump Trump Trump" until that person is removed.