CINCINATTI: For the first event on his post-election “thank you” tour, US President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday drew a crowd of several thousand people to a Cincinnati arena — but perhaps one that lacked the fervor seen at his campaign rallies.
The US Bank Arena in the Ohio city has a capacity of more than 17,000, but on Thursday night before the Republican billionaire was due to take the stage with running mate Mike Pence, about half the seats were empty.
On October 13, a few weeks before Election Day, enthusiastic Trump supporters packed the arena — 21,000 of them, according to the president-elect himself at the time.
“It’s cold outside,” said Tim Smolinski, a 63-year-old semi-retired aerospace engineer, who had no trouble finding a good seat along with his wife.
Other attendees said huge traffic jams and sealed-off roads near the venue — home to the minor league Cincinnati Cyclones ice hockey team — could explain why the arena was not full.
Throughout the presidential campaign, which ended with Trump’s November 8 victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, the Manhattan property mogul drew huge enthusiastic crowds.
But on Thursday, there was no wait at the security checkpoint to enter — and also no lines at the concession stands.
Those present nevertheless were thrilled that the 70-year-old Trump has undertaken what is essentially a victory tour — an unusual step for a newly elected president — in the key swing states that handed him the presidency.
“I think it’s just exciting that he even wants to spend the time to acknowledge the people that brought him to the place that he is,” said 71-year-old Terry Babic, 71, who said he is retired but still does radio broadcasting.
Babic said he and his wife drove five hours from Cleveland just to attend.
The Trump supporters in attendance said that so far, the president-elect had met their expectations during the transition period before he succeeds Barack Obama on January 20, despite media reports of tensions and hiccups in the process.
“Sure, some of his tweets could be worded better,” said William Kelly, an 18-year-old student at the University of Cincinnati who voted for the first time last month.
“I think some of the stuff he says might be straightforward and off the cuff and sure, not what you want to hear, but it’s what we need to hear because it’s true.”
Kelly, wearing a Trump hat, cited the deal reached to keep 1,000 jobs at an air conditioner plant in Indiana from being shifted to Mexico as proof that the president-elect was a man of action.
At the official souvenir stand, red “Make America Great Again” hats were no longer available. They have been replaced with different red hats that say “USA” and “Trump 45” on the back — as he will be the 45th US president. AFP