Trump returns to RNC stomping grounds

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses supporters at the IX Center in Cleveland on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016.

Alex Delaney-Gesing

As a major city in the buckeye battleground, Cleveland was on the campaign radar over the weekend for the major party candidates.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump returned to the city’s I-X Center Saturday evening to boost voter support. His visit followed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s voter registration stop on Friday at Cuyahoga County Community College.

Shellie Lukasik can sum up this presidential election season in one word: “ridiculous.”

“This is like a job interview: I don’t want to hear about how the other candidates are, I want to hear what you can bring to the table,” said Lukasik, a Parma resident.

Lukasik, 42, sat in the I-X Center’s food court prior to the start of a rally for  Trump.

Around her, red “Make America Great Again” hats topped the heads of passersby, some carrying blue Trump-Pence campaign and “Hillary for Prison 2016” signs, as they made their way toward the black curtains enclosing the event area.

A dark blue Trump sign peeked out from the top of Lukasik’s bag resting on her lap.

“It’s terrible how we don’t support each other in this country anymore,” she said.

After growing up in a Democratic household on a farm in southern Ohio, Lukasik has been a registered Democrat her whole voting life. She’s voting Republican next month, though, because today’s president and government aren’t doing what they’re supposed to — reflecting the people, she said.

But voting for Trump doesn’t make her a strong supporter for the nominee — on the contrary, she thinks he’s a jerk.

“But so what,” Lukasik said. “How many times have you met a guy who’s a jerk, but is smart at his job? There are jerks everywhere. I don’t expect to be his girlfriend or his friend; I just think he might have a better way of getting things done, as opposed to what Clinton might do.”

Trump and Clinton have reached the last stretch of the campaign trail before the Nov. 8 election. Over the next 16 days, both nominees are picking up the pace on rally appearances and voter registration events.

Trump’s Cleveland visit aimed to encourage voters to take action against “voter fraud” in the “rigged system” of the election.

He referenced the detailed list of foreign policy solutions he presented earlier in the day at a rally in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as well as his intention to change the inside dealings of the “corrupt government.”

His statements on the “corrupt lifetime career politicians like Clinton” were met by boos from the crowd and “lock her up” chants.

“The system is rigged. You know it, I know it, the politicians know it, the media people know it. They all know it,” he said.

He reported that there are 24 million voter registrations that are either invalid or significantly inaccurate — according to the Pew Research Center — 1.8 million deceased registered, 2.8 million registered in more than one state and 14 percent of non-citizen registered.

“I’ve got news for all of the people taking advantage of our rigged system: (On Nov. 8), everything is going to change,” Trump said. “We’re going to show them, and we’re going to beat the system.”

National polls in the last week have put Trump and Clinton in a close race among likely voter support. An Oct. 22 Investor’s Business Daily and TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence poll put Trump ahead of Clinton by a 2-point margin, 42-40 percent. Comparably, an Oct. 21 Politico/Morning Consult poll places Clinton in the lead by 6 points, 46-40 percent, with 3-point margin of error.

Both nominees have faced heat in the media over the last few weeks — from the recent WikiLeaks publishing of Clinton’s emails, to the release of Trump’s “locker room talk”  video that resulted in the firing of an NBC Today Show co-host.  

Lukasik isn’t fazed by Trump’s comments from the video.”I’ve heard worse,” she said.

“It’s common; people talk, men and women both,” Lukasik said. “It’s trashy, but it’s kind of commonplace, where people say things that don’t necessarily represent them.”

Pink “Women for Trump” signs joined the throng of blue, red and green-colored campaign posters waved in the air upon the nominee’s arrival on stage.

“I love those pink signs; Those are my favorite,” he said. “We’re going to do so well with the women.

“I don’t feel like it’s all that different from what I heard when I was in high school,” Lukasik added. “I don’t think his comments have anything to do with how he plans to run the country.”

Erik Hlosek and Philip Ropelewski, Case Western Reserve University graduate students, wore matching red and black “Make America Great Again” hats ahead of Trump’s speech. “I’ve had this hat for a while, just needed to wear it somewhere,” Ropelewski said.

Hlosek, a registered Democrat, voted for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary election. He’s crossing the aisle on Election Day.

“I kind of thought (Clinton) was the antithesis to Bernie’s message — flip flops and will say anything,” he said. “So I don’t really trust her.”

 Ropelewski, a registered Republican, supported Trump from beginning of his campaign. He said the nominee’s words aren’t representative of his plans post-election.

“I don’t see how what he said 10 years ago on a hot mic tape that was a minute long, is going to affect how he makes decisions,” Hlosek said. “It’s pretty crass, (but) it’s a very inconsequential thing.”

Ropelewski said looking past the comments is what matters.

“Everyone says something nasty and gross at point in their lives, and that’s what locker room talk is,” he said. “It’s not something to be proud of, but it happens. It’s distasteful, but it happens.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about running the country. And I still want him to run the country, even if he said something distasteful a long time ago.”

Trump encouraged the thousands chanting “Trump” to do their part: vote.

“This is a movement like no one in this country has ever seen before,” he said. “We’re going to look back at this election and say this is by far the most important vote you cast for anyone.”

Vietnam War veteran Mike Bokulich, 73, joined a handful of men wearing white “Veterans for Trump: Make America Great Again” shirts post-rally. He labeled himself as “patriotic.”

While Bokulich used to lean toward the left side — he grew up as a Democrat — he said he’s developed more conservative views as he’s gotten older. For this election, he’s pro-Trump.

“Trump is an outsider (in politics). That’s why so many people from across the aisle are finding him interesting, Democrats and Republicans. And that’s why mainstream people are finding it difficult — because he’s not supposed to be doing what he is doing.

“He’s a billionaire, sure,  but he’s a regular, down-to-earth guy. An outsider in politics,” Bokulich said. “He speaks normally: unscripted. Sometimes I wish he wouldn’t say certain things, but that’s the beauty of it.

Alex Delaney-Gesing is a senior reporter, contact her at [email protected]