MANCHESTER — Like a scene from Iron Man, President Donald Trump took the lectern Thursday night to ear-piercing AC/DC music and thunderous applause.
It was par for the course for a Trump rally, with chants of “Lock Her Up!” at the mention of Hillary Clinton, boos for reporters and derogatory nicknames for Democratic candidates.
A capacity crowd of more than 11,000 at Southern New Hampshire University Arena ate it all up enthusiastically.
Sylvia McCarthy-Luescher, of Gilford, attended with her 16-year-old son, Morgan P. McCarthy. They stood in line for more than seven hours to get in.
She said her son was “super psyched" to be there.
“He kept telling me it was so worth waiting. The energy felt like a rock concert, only better.”
There was a sea of red hats and T-shirts with “Make America Great Again” or “Keep America Great.” There were “Women for Trump,” “Gays for Trump,” and “Bikers for Trump” signs.
“It was simply amazing to be around these people,” McCarthy-Luescher said. “It’s always comforting to be around people who are on the same page.”
Some people wore clothing displaying the letters CNN, with the “C” in the form of a hammer and sickle. Some shirts included an obscenity about people’s feelings and then urging a vote for Trump in 2020.
Men and women walked by the media area and held their nose, jeered and asked where the CNN crew was.
Trump told the crowd his record on the economy will ensure his re-election.
“You have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k), everything is going to be down the tubes,” Trump said. "Whether you love me or hate me, you have to vote for me."
He said New Hampshire has thrived while he has been in the White House.
“You have the best unemployment, you have the most successful state in the history of your state and the history of our country,” Trump said. “And then you’re going to vote for somebody else? Oh, great. ‘Let’s vote for Elizabeth "Pocahontas" Warren. We have the best numbers we’ve ever had — let’s vote for somebody else.”
He also repeated his contention that his narrow loss to Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire in the last presidential election was not fair. He has claimed, without evidence, that voter fraud was to blame.
“New Hampshire was taken away,” he said.
Lucas Meyer, president of the New Hampshire Young Democrats, said the rally was “a pretty surreal experience.”
“I haven’t sat through or listened to one of the president’s speeches or rallies since the last election and yesterday was a reminder of why,” he said. “It seems like every other word out of his mouth is a lie and it is accepted as gospel.
“The same rhetoric of racism and division was front and center. There was Native American whupping, referring to Warren as Pocahontas. There were Confederate flags in the crowd.”
In his first rally since mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killed 31 people, Trump got some of his loudest applause when he vowed to defend gun rights.
He said there is a need for more facilities for the mentally ill.
"We will be taking mentally deranged and dangerous people off of the streets so we won't have to worry so much about them," Trump said. "We don't have those institutions anymore, and people can't get proper care. There are seriously ill people and they're on the streets."
That struck a chord with Laconia resident Sheri Minor, who attended the rally.
“We faced it pretty hard right here in Laconia when they shut down the State School and people with mental illness were on the streets fending for themselves,” she said. “Those people can’t be wandering on the streets.”
She also said the rally was energizing.
“I couldn't get past the unity of the people,” Minor said. “I literally felt like I was united with the others. It felt American, like the Fourth of July.”
Reps. Harry Bean and Barbara Comtois were the only two members of Belknap County’s Legislative Delegation who said they would go to the speech. Both failed to get inside because it was so crowded.
Gov. Chris Sununu worked the crowd, shaking hands and posing for photographs.
He shook hands with a rotund Donald Trump impersonator, who greeted people on the floor, wearing an overly long red tie, coat and what appeared to be a fake blond wig. He would make a loose-lipped face and throw his thumbs up for pictures.
Also working the crowd was former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, whose name has come up as a potential opponent to U.S. Sen Jeanne Shaheen. Trump praised him during his speech.
The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to Lewandowski on Thursday as part of its investigation to determine whether to impeach Trump.
Trump’s speech lasted about 90 minutes, veering from praise for what he has done in office to criticism of his political opponents to an examination of his 2016 election victory to a discussion of his slogans.
The wait in line outside lasted hours, but once people were let in, they faced about a three-hour wait for the president to take the podium. All the while, rock music blasted.
During the speech, several people had medical problems and were taken out by paramedics.
Once, Trump said, “Is there a doctor in the house?” after a woman near the stage had a medical problem and needed to be removed.
The president also paused his remarks when there was a disturbance near the rafters. Security escorted some protesters out of the arena.
Trump mocked a man he believed was a protester.
"That guy’s got a serious weight problem. Go home, start exercising," Trump said. “Get him out of here, please. Got a bigger problem than I do.”
Published reports said the man he was referring to was actually a Trump supporter, and an aide said the president called him from Air Force One and left a voicemail message.