OMAHA — Donald Trump swooped into Nebraska on Friday, tailoring his familiar campaign message to include a promise to clear the path for exports of beef while urging Nebraskans to put an exclamation point on his march to the GOP presidential nomination.
"We gotta win Nebraska," Trump said, pointing ahead to Tuesday's Republican presidential primary election.
The fact is that Trump has wrapped up the party's presidential nod, but he flew Friday to Nebraska and then on to Oregon to build momentum for the general election.
Several thousand supporters gathered in the Werner Enterprises corporate hangar adjacent to Eppley Airfield to greet Trump on a warm spring afternoon. Police estimated the crowd at 3,000; Trump suggested it was 10,000 or 11,000.
Gov. Pete Ricketts introduced Trump, suggesting the presumptive GOP nominee will "chart a new course for our country" after eight years of the Obama administration.
"We know we need to take back our country," the governor said.
Trump welcomed Ricketts' late endorsement, suggesting that "I'm starting to like the Chicago Cubs again." The extended Ricketts family owns the Cubs.
In remarks aimed at Nebraska and its beef export market, Trump said: "I will get rid of those tariffs in Japan (and) make sure China buys your product."
The rally was marked by the shouts of a few protesters who were escorted out of the hangar by police. The first young protester who was expelled left to a chorus of boos with a middle finger extended in the air.
Earlier, former Gov. Dave Heineman, honorary chairman of Trump's Nebraska campaign, said, "Americans want change and I feel the same way."
"A political elite establishment in Washington is the problem and both parties are at fault," Heineman said during an interview prior to Trump's arrival.
Trump is going to win the Republican nomination "because he touched a nerve," he said.
"No question Donald is going to say some controversial things that make us uncomfortable," Heineman said, "but it's a choice election."
None of the leading Nebraska Republicans supported Trump prior to his surge to the nomination, but there has been a rush to the side of the presumptive GOP nominee since Texas Sen. Ted Cruz withdrew from the race.
Blown out by Trump in Indiana earlier this week, Cruz canceled a scheduled rally in Lincoln on Wednesday where Ricketts may have been prepared to bestow his endorsement.
Nebraska Republicans will vote Tuesday in a presidential primary election that was designed to bind the state's 36 delegates to the GOP national convention to vote for the primary winner on the first two ballots.