Front-running Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump enjoyed a raucous reception from wall-to-wall crowd of supporters Wednesday night in Bethpage, vowing to return exported jobs to the country and defending the “New York values” exemplified by the first-responders of 9/11.
He drew the loudest response from the thousands who packed a massive hangar-like space at Grumman Studios whenever he criticized Republican rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who he continually refers to as “Lyin’ Ted.”
A day after losing to Cruz in the Wisconsin Republican primary, the real estate magnate seized on the “New York values” phrase Cruz used in a GOP debate in January to mock New York City.
Seeking to regain momentum before the April 19 New York primary, Trump said the 9/11 terrorist attacks brought out the best of the area, citing, “Our incredible police, our incredible firefighters . . . our unbelievable construction workers.”
Of Cruz, Trump said, “I think you can forget about him, forget about him.”
The former reality TV star has a substantial polling lead among Republican voters in New York, his home state. He was born and raised in Queens and lives in Manhattan. But he is still hundreds of pledged delegates short of the 1,237 necessary to secure the Republican nomination without a battle at the GOP national convention in Cleveland in July.
Trump tailored his first major speech in New York to the region, saying he was glad to be home.
“On Long Island, you know it better than anybody,” Trump said of job loss. “We’re bringing companies back to the United States.”
He ticked off the Islamic State and Common Core as targets and veterans and health care as areas in dire need of improvement. “We are going to start winning,” Trump said.
The candidate earned roars of approval from the crowd again and again. “We’re going to be smart. We’re going to be vigilant. We’re not going to be politically correct all the time,” he said.
The crowd also shouted “build that wall,” in reference to Trump’s long-standing plan to erect a barrier between Mexico and the United States.
Debbie Diemer, 64, of Wantagh was among several in the crowd who said Trump’s speech “energized” his supporters.
Diemer, a registered Democrat, said she was voting for Trump because she believed he would keep “jobs in America. She noted her former job as an accountant in New York City was outsourced overseas two years ago, forcing her into early retirement.
“He wants to build this country back again and I believe he is the man to do it because he’s not a politician,” Diemer said holding a sign that read “the Silent Majority stands with Trump.”
Trump spoke for more than half an hour and was interrupted once by the removal of a protester.
At least two demonstrators inside the venue disrupted the rally before he took the stage and were removed by security as the crowd booed and chanted Trump’s name.
Nassau police said two people were arrested in connection with a physical alteration inside the venue. Police did not have any information about the exact charges.
Police said there were no arrests outside the venue.
Six people were treated for exhaustion or dehydration who were taken to the hospital. Seven others were treated on the scene. Most of those who fell ill were elderly.
With Nicole Fuller.