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john ibbitson

Some no doubt considered Donald Trump's rally Thursday evening a bit obscene. A president-elect who continues to campaign after the election is over – whoever heard of such a thing? But no one will be surprised. We all know Donald Trump, we all know what he seeks, which can only be found on a stage, in front of worshipful thousands.

"We had people running our country that truly didn't know what the hell they were doing," he told the cheering thousands at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. "… They forgot about the American worker. They forget that it was the American worker who built our country. We're not going to forget, believe me." This is what they want to hear, over and over. They never tire of it. These are his people, the people who gave him the biggest ratings win in American political history: the presidency.

"Now that you put me in this position, even if you don't help me one bit, I'm going to get it done," he promised. "Though it would be easier if you helped me." They roared.

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And Mr. Trump will deliver. The president-elect is acting with determination to carry out his promises, appointing staff and cabinet secretaries determined to carry out his mandate – including, he revealed at the rally, making retired general James Mattis – "Mad Dog Mattis," Mr. Trump called him, referring to his nickname – secretary of defence.

The writer Lou Cannon described Ronald Reagan's presidency as "the role of a lifetime." But the former movie actor had plans: to lower taxes, cut spending, confront the evil Soviet empire. Mr. Trump may only be in it mostly for the crowds. And the crowds are there for him. Each delivers for the other.

He recounted, lovingly, one suspects for the umpteenth time, his come-from-behind victory, which included winning the key swing state of Ohio. He recounted, state by state, where the predictions of pundits and prognosticators turned to ash, which made it possible for him to say, finally, triumphantly: "Bottom line: We won!"

What a revenge against those who were so certain this could never happen, who now can only watch, helpless, as Mr. Trump and his enraptured supporters congratulate each other.

Parts of the speech – the parts he read on the Teleprompter – were inclusive, forgiving, a promise to unite, not divide. But there was also red meat, including a long rambling discourse on "the extremely dishonest press," especially those who, like this writer, predicted he could never crack the Blue Wall of Midwestern states that had voted Democratic since the early 1990s. "We didn't break it, we shattered that sucker," he exulted.

There is more America than the Rust Belt, more voters than those sick of losing their jobs, so they think, to foreigners and illegals. Mr. Trump lost in the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by, according to the latest figures, 2.5 million votes, or 2 percentage points. Ten presidents won with slimmer margins. Once he is actually in charge, Mr. Trump may learn how hard it is for a president to deliver on his agenda, especially this agenda, with such an impaired mandate.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump visited the Carrier air-conditioning company, in Indianapolis, Ind., which has announced it is cancelling plans to cut 1,000 jobs, thanks to a fresh injection of state tax incentives. The governor of Indiana is Mike Pence, soon to be vice-president.

"What happened today in Indiana, we're going to do that all over the country," Mr. Trump promised the Cincinnati crowd. He repeated campaign pledges to abolish Democratic health-care reforms, "end illegal immigration … build a great wall at the border," renegotiate or repudiate NAFTA, and all the other promises, one after another, that critics fear will bring America down around Americans' ears.

But had Mr. Trump thought he could have appealed to the same voting base by preaching globalization and public health care, would he have?

It doesn't matter. He promised them, and he will deliver on those promises. Otherwise, they'd stop coming to the rallies. It's all about the rallies.

And soon comes the inaugural – which, when you think about it, is just another kind of rally, the biggest of them all.