If this wasn’t a deliberate slap in the face to your opponents then I’ve never seen one. Donald Trump has a habit of showing up in places where many other Republicans either can’t or won’t go, but this one was really off the beaten GOP path. Last night The Donald showed up for a rally in Burlington, Vermont, where Bernie Sanders was once mayor and still represents them in the Senate. Vermont hasn’t voted for a Republican president since 1988 and only managed to turn out 33% for Mitt Romney the last time around. So why go there? Probably just to prove that he has supporters all over the country, to lay claim to an actual fifty state strategy and, as I said, to poke a finger in Bernie Sanders’ eye.

It was quite the show, with plenty of controversy brewing well before Trump’s private jet had even landed. (USA Today)

For 70 minutes, the Republican presidential candidate enthralled a capacity crowd. Though he was unable to prevent all protesters from entering the theater, Trump stifled any large demonstrations that would give the impression he was unwelcome in Burlington.

Rally attendees said they were surprised to be confronted with a loyalty test at the theater’s entrance.

“There was a man in a suit who asked us if we were Trump supporters,” said Jennifer Vincent of South Burlington. “A couple ahead of us said they weren’t, and they were escorted out.”

Burlington City Councilor Joan Shannon refused to declare herself a Trump supporter and also was barred. Shannon, the former council president, said she was flabbergasted Trump would weed out people who simply wanted to hear the candidate speak.

“What was the point of tickets exactly?” Shannon said. “It was incredibly dishonest.”

In case you’re wondering who Joan Shannon is… yeah, she’s a Democrat from the local party stronghold. The ticket situation raised a lot of questions, though. It was a 1,400 seat venue (packed beyond capacity as with most of Trump’s appearances) and they handed out 20,000 tickets in advance. I’d offer an explanation for that large of a disparity, but I don’t have one.

And yes, Trump’s security team, along with the local police, were screening people at the door and kicking out protesters after they began to disrupt the event. The reason for that one is fairly obvious and Trump explained it to the local media, with the police agreeing with him.

“We have more than 20,000 people that showed up for 1,400 spots,” the billionaire New York businessman said in a statement. “I’m taking care of my people, not people who don’t want to vote for me or are undecided. They are loyal to me, and I am loyal to them.”

The Trump campaign was within its rights to refuse admittance to anyone, Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said.

“They have the right to say who’s trespassing in violation of their lease agreement, so when people are asked to leave, police escort them out,” the chief told the Free Press. He said that campaigns remove people from events “all the time” whom they do not wish to have attend.

There’s no mystery there. This wasn’t a town hall or a sponsored coffee klatch to try to win over a few more voters. This was a rally for his supporters, designed to be a show and intended to show the rest of the country that Trump will go talk to anyone and find supporters in unlikely places. One of the more amusing moments being shown in a loop on cable news today came when Trump yelled for one protester to be removed and told his security people that they could keep his coat.

It’s about ten below zero outside. Tell him we’ll mail it to him in a couple of weeks.”

Read through the rest of the article linked above and you’ll find that Trump and his advance team managed to tick off just about everyone in the Burlington city government. That’s not only a completely predictable result in one of the biggest socialist centers in the country, but was probably a feature instead of a bug. I doubt Trump is under any illusion that he’s going to carry Vermont and its three electoral votes come November if he becomes the party’s nominee, so he’s not exactly desperate to make friends there. But it was such a unique choice of venue that he once again drew the national media cameras like moths to a flame and landed himself another ton of free media. The major news outlets may complain all day and night but they just can’t help themselves and The Donald seems to be playing them like a fiddle.

In case you missed it and want to check out the spectacle, I’m embedding the full video below. But it includes all of the warm up speakers and a fair amount of time just scanning the crowd. Trump doesn’t come out until the fifty minute mark, so skip ahead if you just want to catch the main event.