Politics

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump stopped in Louisville on Tuesday to rally with supporters in advance of Kentucky’s GOP caucus.

The event, at the Kentucky International Convention Center downtown, was rowdy and frequently interrupted by protesters. As is typical for his rallies, Trump ordered security to escort the protesters out of the building.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who last week endorsed Trump in a move that upended conventional political wisdom, took the stage to introduce Trump — and take shots at his opponents.

“Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are the Washington, D.C. twins, we don’t need more Washington, D.C. politicians,” Christie said. “There is only one man who will keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House, and that’s Donald Trump.”

Trump’s speech hit on common themes of his candidacy, from his support for trade tariffs to discourage outsourcing by American companies to his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The tremendous crime, the drugs pouring across the border — and yes, we will build that wall,” he said to applause.

In his most Kentucky-focused point, Trump threw his support behind the coal industry.

“Obama has decimated the coal industry, decimated it, and we’re going to bring the coal industry back folks, we’re going to bring it back,” he said.

Before the speech, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin tweeted a welcome to the candidate. Neither Sen. Mitch McConnell nor Sen. Rand Paul attended the speech.

Trump also took time to criticize his opponents. He called Rubio a “lightweight” and Ted Cruz a liar.

And when protesters voiced their opposition from the crowd, Trump did what he’s become known to do: He told security officers to kick them out.

“Get em out of here, go on get out,” Trump said in response to one protest, then telling security “don’t hurt them.”

“See, if I say ‘go get them,’ I get in trouble with the press, the most dishonest human beings in the world,” he continued. “If I say ‘don’t hurt them,’ then the press says ‘well, Trump isn’t as tough as he used to be.’”

Trump’s campaign stop took place on Super Tuesday, when 13 states and one territory hold primary and caucus elections.

Kentucky’s Republican presidential caucus is Saturday. According to a recent Western Kentucky University poll, Trump leads the pack among Republican candidates in Kentucky ahead of this weekend’s presidential caucus.

This story has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.