By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
It was quite an entrance. There was the nod to local pride.
“There’s nothing like New Jersey. Wise guys. So many wise guys. I tell you what, you can make it in New Jersey, you can do just about anything you want in life,” said Donald Trump.
There was the line that made all the newscasts in connection with yesterday’s Egypt Air disaster and Hillary Clinton.
“So today we had a terrible tragedy and she came up and she said that Donald Trump talked about radical Islamic terrorism, which she doesn’t want to use, she used a different term because she refuses to use that term. And I’m saying to myself and it’s a terrible thing and he essentially shouldn’t be running for office. He doesn’t have the right to run for office. And I’m saying what just happened about 12 hours ago? A plane got blown out of the sky and if anybody thinks it wasn’t blown out of the sky, you’re 100 percent wrong, folks, OK?” Trump said.
The critics pounced on him for jumping to that conclusion.
Outside the event, a carnival atmosphere prevailed. While merchants offered buttons, masks, hats and food, about 200 protesters made their feelings known.
“Donald Trump is a loose cannon. He’s going to be dangerous for America. He has no knowledge of the issues,” said Lawrenceville resident Marlene Huschke.
“Whether it’s women, whether it’s workers, whether it’s nurses, whether it’s teachers, whether it’s Mexicans, and immigrants, Donald Trump just spews hate,” said New Jersey Citizen Action Executive Director Phyllis Sallow-Kaye.
Trump supporters, meanwhile, were lined up at 4 for a 7 o’clock rally.
“With his business acumen, with his experience in the past he can come in and make change. As you’ve seen in the media from the beginning, everyone has told him he couldn’t do it and he outlasted 16 polished politicians,” said Patrick Kennedy of Long Valley.
Inside the National Guard armory about 1,000 people waited for Trump and Gov. Chris Christie. Among those warming up the crowd, two state senators backing Trump.
“He makes no apologies for his political incorrectness. Nor should he have to,” said Sen. Joe Pennacchio.
“Donald Trump is going to secure our border and you know what he’s going to do? Build that wall,” said Sen. Michael Doherty.
The event and another private one raised money for the state Republican Party and to retire Christie campaign debt. The governor did his part.
“We’ve got about six months to go everybody, just a little bit less than six months until we change America by getting a new president and getting rid of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton,” Christie said.
And then the main attraction spoke for half an hour. To those who follow him it was familiar stuff.
There was the in-your-face Trump on trade.
“And these dummies say oh well that’s a trade war. Trade war? We’re losing $500 billion in trade with China. Who the hell cares if there’s a trade war?” he asked.
There was the peace-through-strength Trump on military power.
“We are going to have a military that’s going to be so big and so strong and so powerful that nobody is going to mess with us, just remember, nobody,” he said.
There was Trump, the media critic.
“What these guys on television, the most dishonest human beings — these people right here, look at all the cameras — they’re the worst,” he said.
And there was the Trump who can be a little crass.
“I am paying so many people, I have so many employees in New Jersey, I hate to think about it. I have to be honest, OK? I am taking care of more education, and more salaries, and more health care — right Chris? — than almost anybody in New Jersey, right?” he said.
Not many party regulars could be seen here. And there was nothing in the speech about a ban on Muslims, but otherwise the Trump positions were all there, and this crowd seemed to love it.
“He’s amazing. He’s going to make this country great again and I know it. I believe it in my heart,” Carmen Morales of Colonia said.
“I think he’s awesome. I think he’s a born leader. I think he’s a lion. Hillary Clinton is a sheep. Who do you want to be president?” asked Marlboro resident Cindy Kyreakis.
There is no question Trump is a phenomenon. It’s still a question whether he can win.