CEDAR RAPIDS — He doesn’t get credit for all he’s done in 152 days as president, Donald Trump said Wednesday night, but he’s made “amazing progress” improving the economy, lowering unemployment, curtailing illegal immigration and, in short, delivering on his promise to “Make America Great Again.”
A crowd of more than 6,000 at the U.S. Cellular Center in downtown Cedar Rapids joined him in delivering that signature line from his campaign and demonstrated it believed him with cheers, chants of “USA, USA” and applause throughout the hour-plus campaign-style rally.
Many in the crowd said they came to the rally — some waiting five hours or more — to show their support for Trump and appreciation for what he’s doing.
“He needs all the help he can get because he’s not getting it from the party, but from the people,” said Tom Barr of West Liberty.
That’s because “he doesn’t have the old Republican network behind him,” said Joe Quaintance, who drove from Illinois. “But the people support him.”
“The media doesn’t give him credit,” added Judith McDonough, who drove from Van Buren County to show support.
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Trump was making his first visit to Iowa since being sworn in as president and his first return to Cedar Rapids since a late October rally at the McGrath Amphitheatre. He visited Des Moines in December on his “thank you” tour.
The overarching theme of this 71-minute speech was making America great and putting America first. He framed it as a struggle between those who voted for him and the “same failed and tired voices in Washington (that would) keep us from delivering the change you voted for and the change you deserve.”
“The people are the rulers of this country once again,” he said. “One by one, we are keeping our promises.”
That’s why the arena was filled and why Trump voters are sticking with the president, Iowa Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler said.
“What the people appreciate about Trump is that he is willing to push back against the shrill, unhinged left,” he said. “They are glad he is willing to stand with them. They feel like they are included, not outside the tent.”
Seventeen protesters, part of a group, were escorted out of the arena, a Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman said.
Trump told his audience he has signed 39 pieces of legislation into law in the first five months of his administration, and signed executive orders to roll back countless regulations.
Declaring “Obamacare is over,” Trump said he hopes “we’re going to surprise you with a really good (health care) plan” and said majority Republicans are going to pass the largest tax cut in American history.
“Infrastructure’s going to happen, too,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot of exciting things over the next few months”
Trump, who has proposed a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure, promised to “rebuild not only America, but we will rebuild rural America” by buying American and hiring American.
He called for Democrats to get on board rather than stand in the way of the changes.
“They need to be positive. They can’t continue to be obstructionist,” Trump said. “They should come together — I don’t think they will, but I will tell you it would be a beautiful, beautiful thing if we could get together as two parties that love our country and come up with the great health care.
“If we had even a little Democratic support, you would have everything,” he added.
Instead, they engage in “phony witch hunts,” he charged without mentioning the congressional and FBI investigations into Russian meddling in the presidential election.
The “everything” he mentioned would include new immigration rules requiring people coming to the United States be able to support themselves without welfare services for at least five years, he said.
That sounded good to Lucy Ditch, 13, and Ava Johnson, 14, both of North Liberty, who were there to show support for Trump, especially his immigration policy.
“He knows what he’s doing,” said Lucy, who was wearing a “Make American Great Again” cap and Trump T-shirt. She agreed with Ava that it’s important to “keep the country safe.”
Along with those new rules, Trump renewed his pledge — again with the crowd joining him — to “build the wall.”
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For the first time, he proposed making it a solar wall that will pay for itself by generating electricity.
“The higher it goes, the more valuable it is,” he said.
Whether it’s his U.S.> Supreme Court appointment, pushing his legislative agenda, pulling out of the Paris climate accord, withdrawing participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement or canceling former President Barack Obama’s “one-sided deal with the Castro regime,” Trump said he’s doing it because it’s what Americans want.
“I was elected to serve the citizens of Iowa … all 50 states and 320 million citizens,” he said.
Trump left the stage to the Rolling Stones song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
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B.A. Morelli of The Gazette contributed to this report.