WEST BEND — Responding to rioting and violence in Milwaukee in recent days, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made an appeal to black voters and said the country needs more police officers during a rally here Tuesday night.
"Law and order must be restored for the sake of all, but most especially for the sake of those living in the affected communities," Trump told more than 3,000 supporters at the Washington County fairgrounds. "The main victims of these riots are law-abiding African-American citizens living in these neighborhoods."
Declaring "the war on our police must end and it must end now," Trump blamed decades of Democratic leadership for crime and poverty in major cities. He called Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton anti-police and held up as a model the tough-on-crime approach of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was one of the speakers who introduced Trump.
"I’ll make sure we deliver safe neighborhoods in Milwaukee," Trump said, reading from a teleprompter. "The world is watching, right here in Milwuakee, but also across the country."
The Trump rally took place in heavily Republican Washington County, about a 45-minute drive from downtown Milwaukee. The capacity crowd of 3,600 — which tapered off a bit as Trump was more than an hour late — was overwhelmingly white.
Trump was introduced by Giuliani, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, of Kenosha, and Gov. Scott Walker.
Walker was scheduled to participate in an event with the Aspen Institute in Colorado on Tuesday night but canceled early Monday, a spokeswoman for the event said.
"There are two names and only two names on the ballot who can be elected the next president of the United States," Walker said in introducing Trump. "One is Hillary Clinton. The other is Donald Trump. … It is clear, the American people, the people in this state, as well as people across this country, we want change."
Other top state Republicans were absent from the Trump rally. House Speaker Paul Ryan is out of state on a previously scheduled trip supporting House Republicans and Sen. Ron Johnson was attending prior commitments in northern and central parts of the state, their campaigns said.
Attendees chanted "lock her up" and "crooked Hillary" as state representatives and members of Congress warmed up the crowd at 7:30 p.m. as it waited for Trump to arrive from the taping of a town hall event at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Speaking to a crowd waving Trump-Pence signs to keep cool, state Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, acknowledged "it has been a tumultuous campaign already, one that can be uncomfortable and unsettling," but he said it is imperative that Republicans defeat Clinton.
"(Clinton's policies) will drive businesses out of the United States," Knodl said. "Donald Trump, he builds businesses. The kind of businesses we want to stay here."
Jacquelyn Adamicki, 20, a University of Minnesota student from Waukesha, said she agrees with many of Trump's policies, especially on lowering taxes, but thinks building a wall along the Mexican border would be a waste of money. With family in Poland who have had difficulty immigrating legally to the United States, Trump's hard line on immigration still resonates with her.
"He wasn't my first choice, but he's our candidate now," Adamicki said.
In holding a rally in very conservative Washington County, Trump's campaign signaled it recognizes the reason he is trailing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by 15 points among likely voters and 10 points among registered voters statewide is because of dampened support in the reliably Republican counties surrounding Milwaukee.
The last three Marquette Law School polls show Trump leading Clinton 45-35 among registered voters in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties. In 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney won those counties 67-32.
Meanwhile Clinton, who has yet to visit the state since accepting the nomination, leads in the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee 72-13. President Barack Obama won the city 79-20 in 2012.
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who has embraced Trump since he clinched the nomination in May and met with him on Tuesday, said the key reason for Trump's poor showing in the Milwaukee suburbs has been the resistance to his candidacy among some conservatives, such as prominent talk radio host Charlie Sykes.
Thompson said it's still too early to write off Trump's chances in Wisconsin and nationally. He said the debates in late September and early October will sway the election more than any day-to-day stumbles on the campaign trail.
"When the debates start, you’re going to see the base start shouting and the base is going to come back to Republicans," Thompson said. "Southeast Wisconsin is going to come back for Trump. Put that in your pipe and smoke it."
Brandon Scholz, a Republican strategist who is anti-Trump, said Trump's two visits and his running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's three visits to the state, including a joint appearance in Green Bay on Aug. 5, suggest the campaign's internal polling shows a closer race than the latest Marquette poll.
Trump's last visit (and the poll) came after a week in which he refused to endorse Ryan in his primary election that he won by nearly 70 points. Trump ended up endorsing Ryan while reading from cards during his Green Bay rally.
Since then Trump has given speeches laying out his plans for the economy and defeating the Islamic State.
In addition to the West Bend rally and ticketed town hall event in Milwaukee, Trump attended fundraisers in La Crosse and Milwaukee and met with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
State Senate Democratic leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, issued a statement Tuesday pushing back against Republican legislators embracing Trump.
"Wisconsin families have seen enough," Shilling said. "From suggesting we should abandon our allies to advocating the use of torture, Trump’s policies would make us less safe. He lacks the temperament, experience and moral judgment to keep us safe."
Trump, in an interview Tuesday with the La Crosse Tribune, said his temperament is one of his greatest assets.
"I’ve won all my life, I’ve been winning," Trump told the newspaper. "I always thought that temperament — I mean I have always felt — and been told — that my single greatest strength is temperament."