CINCINNATI — President Donald Trump on Thursday escalated his attacks on Baltimore and other diverse, liberal cities, telling a crowd in this key swing state that Democrats "deliver poverty for their constituents and privilege for themselves."

"For decades, these communities have been run exclusively by Democrat politicians, and it's been total one-party control of the inner cities," Trump said. He called federal funding sent to these areas "stolen money and it's wasted money, and it's a shame."

Trump steered clear of mentioning lawmakers by name, in a departure from his recent attacks on Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., whose district includes parts of Baltimore, and four minority Democratic congresswomen.

On Thursday night, he made only a passing mention to "four left-wing extremists" who he said are now leading the Democratic Party, then told the crowd in the mostly full U.S. Bank Arena: "We can name one after another, but I won't do that, because I don't want to be controversial. We want no controversy."

The president's remarks were in line with his recent denunciations of liberal enclaves as violent, dirty and outside the mainstream. Trump offered no policy proposals for how he plans to address the problems he says plague numerous cities across the country.

Trump won Ohio by 8 percentage points over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, and the state is key to his 2020 re-election bid.

Trump was introduced at Thursday's rally by Vice President Mike Pence and Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who got lavish praise from the president.

The president kicked off his remarks by mocking the Democratic White House candidates who sparred on the debate stage in Detroit on Wednesday night.

"The Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they did attacking me, practically, and this morning, that's all the fake news was talking about," Trump said, prompting boos from the crowd. "That wasn't pretty."

Attacks on minority Democratic lawmakers have become a staple of Trump's campaign in recent weeks, and the president's base has responded in kind.

Last month, at a campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, the crowd responded to Trump's attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was born in Somalia, with chants of "Send her back! Send her back!"

The chant echoed the racial remarks Trump aimed at Omar and three other minority Democratic congresswomen — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; Ayanna Pressley of Minnesota, who was born in Cincinnati — days earlier. Trump has accused the four lawmakers of making hateful comments about the country, setting off a controversy that led the House to vote to formally rebuke him.

Trump had earlier tweeted that the four Democrats should "go back" to "the crime infested places from which they came." All four congresswomen are U.S. citizens, and only Omar was not born in the United States.

There were no "Send her back!" chants during Trump's remarks Thursday night.

In fact, one of the loudest reactions from the crowd came before Trump even took the stage when a couple dozen out-of-state African-Americans stood up and shook white T-shirts saying “Trump & Republicans are not racist.” They later donned the shirts and waved “Blacks for Trump” signs.

Asked earlier about the furor surrounding Trump’s recent remarks, DeWine said: “It’s not a good thing to say people should go back where they came from ... the great thing about this country is if you’re a U.S. citizen, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a citizen, you’re equal. Every citizen is equal under the law.”

Asked if he Trump’s remarks were racist, DeWine said, “I don’t know that ... you’ve got to look into somebody’s heart ... I’m not judging what is in someone’s heart.”

At one point in Thursday's speech, Trump claimed that AIDS and childhood cancer would soon be cured. At another, during a span of 90 seconds, he moved from a long riff on how he learned to pronounce Lima, Ohio, to declaring that U.S. astronauts will go to Mars to attacking a teleprompter for being "boring." The crowd seemed to lose the thread, as they did during a longer riff about the perils and problems of windmills, long a Trump target.

The president also defended imposing another tariff on China, which he had announced earlier in the day: “You’re not paying for those tariffs. China is paying for those tariffs … Until such time as there is a deal we will be taxing the hell out of China.”

The current tariffs already are hitting Ohio farmers hard, although some of the larger operations have gotten federal subsidies.

He clearly was way off the facts as he touted his role in America’s economy and his re-election chances in Ohio by saying, "Right now Ohio is the most successful it's ever been in the history of our country."

 

Darrel Rowland of The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.