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Trump hits the road on ‘thank you tour’

A motorcade carrying President-elect Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in New York in this file photo.

Andres Kudacki/AP

Donald Trump is taking an election victory lap, starting in some of the Midwest rust-belt states that helped propel the billionaire businessman into the White House.

After weeks holed up at his homes in New York and Palm Beach, the U.S. president-elect is heading out on the road Thursday to Indiana and Ohio, as part of what his transition team is calling a "thank you tour."

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The foray is about Mr. Trump taking his populist economic message directly to the working-class voters that were a big part of his win over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election.

Mr. Trump is getting back to a routine that aides say he thrives on – speaking to raucous crowds of the faithful. Mr. Trump has been largely out of the public eye since his election-night speech. He's granted two interviews – to CBS's 60 Minutes and the New York Times – and released two taped video messages. But he hasn't done a formal news conference since August.

While he's taken a low profile with the media, Mr. Trump has been busy on Twitter – with messages ranging from the mundane, to rash, angry and inaccurate. In recent days, he has ranted about U.S. flag burners (jail or deport them), the media (serious bias), the popular vote (claims he won it) and on Hillary Clinton supporting recount efforts (sad).

Mr. Trump will hold a mass rally and fundraiser Thursday evening in Cincinnati, Ohio, revisiting a formula that worked so successfully for him during the election campaign. Mr. Trump won the battleground state of Ohio with 52 per cent of the popular vote.

Trump aides say the rally could be the first of several in the leadup to the Jan. 20 inauguration.

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Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump will make a stop at a Carrier Corp. plant in Indianapolis, where he will take credit for helping to broker a deal to save more than 1,000 jobs that the gas-furnace factory had planned to move to Mexico.

"This is a huge win and a perfect example of the kind of leadership the Trump administration is going to provide when it comes to fighting for the American workers," Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.

Mr. Trump also weighed in with a Tweet: "Donald Trump is already helping the working class."

Mr. Trump is getting out of New York amid persistent questions about the conflicts of interest he'll face as president because of the vast number of business deals he's involved with in the U.S. and more than a dozen other countries. Ethics experts say Mr. Trump is exposing himself to dangerous conflicts and constitutional problems, in spite of a commitment made Wednesday to step away from "business operations."

Aides said Mr. Trump is merely highlighting to Americans that he's entirely focused on being president and staffing up his administration, not on his business empire.

"We've already started to see the results of [that focus] as we see the Carrier news," said Jason Miller, a Trump aide. "So it's a very clear focus from the president-elect."

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Details of the deal to save the plant, where 1,400 people currently work, are unclear. In a statement, Carrier cited incentives from the state of Indiana and the incoming Trump administration's commitment to a more competitive business climate. Vice-president-elect Mike Pence is the current Indiana Governor and may have had a hand offering Carrier tax breaks or other subsidies to save jobs.

"This agreement in no way diminishes our belief in the benefits of free trade and that the forces of globalization will continue to require solutions for the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. and of American workers moving forward," the company said.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump seized on Carrier as the poster child of the failings of the North American free-trade agreement. At one rally, he said if Carrier moved the plant to Mexico, he would slap a 35-per-cent tariff on any finished products the company ships to the U.S. from Mexico.

Mr. Trump may also have strong-armed Carrier's parent, United Technologies Corp., which is a major defence supplier of fighter-jet engines through its Pratt & Whitney subsidiary.

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