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In Hartford, Donald Trump Tunes His Speech to Connecticut

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tailored his stump speech for the economic problems facing the state of Connecticut. He spoke to roughly 6,000 to 7,000 people at the Hartford Convention Center Friday night. Those who made it inside were met by thousands of protesters when they left.

Trump's visit came eleven days before the primary in Connecticut, where a recent poll showed he has 50 percent of the support among Republicans.

His speech mirrored those given throughout the country over the last year. He spoke about bringing manufacturing jobs back, building a wall along the Mexican border, and what he sees as a "rigged" political nomination process.

Trump also touched on a sore spot in Connecticut's economy. "How do you lose General Electric?" he exclaimed to a chorus of boos. "It didn't help you folks much. At least we lost them to the United States." GE is in the process of moving its headquarters from Fairfield to Boston, Massachusetts.

Nicole Palmieri said she has seen "almost all" of Trump's speeches, so while the topics didn't break new ground, she was excited about the energy in the room. "I love the enthusiasm," she said. "I think the Republican, conservative, whatever-you-want-to-call-it party needs that right now. Barack Obama did a great job of it when he ran, and I think Trump's doing a great job of it now."

Several protesters spoke out while Trump was on the stage, and were swiftly escorted out. But not all the anti-Trump people in attendance left early.

Credit Tucker Ives / WNPR
Holden Powell, a student at the University of Connecticut, saved his protest sign for the end of the rally.

Holden Powell waited until Trump left the stage before displaying his sign in front of the cameras while Trump supporters attempted to block it from view with their campaign signs. His sign on yellow paper read, "End Racism; End Homophobia; End Deportation; End White Supremacy; End Trump."

Powell said he was originally planning to take out his sign during the rally and start a chant, but changed his mind during the speech. Afterwards, he was sitting outside the room with his sign on display as people left.

"The only thing that was surprising was not him, but the audience members, and just how aggressive they were," said Powell. "It was just very uncomfortable."

Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR
Protesters outside the Trump rally in Hartford.

Riffat Matin said he and Powell were called "thugs." Matin is also a student at UConn.

"We're college kids, you know what I mean? And that's just...yeah..." Matin said.

As rally attendees went down the stairs while exiting the convention center, they were met by thousands of protesters who were not inside for the speech.

Law enforcement officials anticipated a confrontation, and attempted to create a barrier between the supporters and protesters. As more people filtered out, some confrontations occurred out of view of the police officers on the ground.

Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR
The view of protesters greeting attendees as they left the Trump rally in Hartford Friday night.

The most recent poll released by the Emerson College Polling Society showed Trump leading the GOP candidates with half of potential Republican voters in Connecticut. Ohio Governor John Kasich trailed Trump with 26 percent, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz sat in a distant third with 17 percent of potential voters in Connecticut.

Last week, John Kasich was the first candidate to make a public appearance in the state with a town hall meeting in Fairfield. Others from both sides of the ticket have visited the state for private fundraisers, mainly in Fairfield County.

Credit Ryan Caron King / WNPR
A Donald Trump supporter and a Bernie Sanders supporter outside the Donald Trump rally in Hartford.

Connecticut has 28 Republican delegates up for grabs. Each congressional district awards three delegates to the winner. If the statewide winner receives more than 50 percent of the votes, he receives 13 delegates. If the winner has under 50 percent, the delegates will be awarded proportionally.

The next primary is scheduled for April 19 in New York. According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll, Trump is also leading that state with 55 percent of Republican support.

Ryan Caron King, Daniel Keith, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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