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Story highlights

Donald Trump kicked off his Wisconsin campaign on the attack Tuesday

The Republican front-runner knocked Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Janesville, Wisconsin CNN —  

Donald Trump kicked off his Wisconsin campaign on the attack Tuesday.

The Republican front-runner knocked Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the state’s economy under his tenure, just hours after Walker endorsed Trump’s chief rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

“He certainly can’t endorse me after what I did to him in the race, right?” Trump said, calling attention to his attacks on Walker before the Wisconsin governor dropped out of the Republican presidential race last fall.

Trump accused both Walker and Cruz of supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that was approved on a bipartisan basis. Both Cruz and Walker supported granting Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the deal, but Cruz ultimately voted against TPP in the Senate.

But Trump focused the brunt of his attacks on Walker by pointing to economic hardships in Wisconsin, which Trump attributed to free trade deals that Trump said have siphoned jobs out of the state to countries like China and Mexico.

Trade has been one of the most consistent plans of Trump’s presidential platform. The billionaire businessman has promised to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. and has threatened that he would impose tariffs on imports coming from countries like China and Mexico, whose leaders Trump claims are outsmarting the U.S.

“He’s not doing a great job,” Trump said of Walker, suggesting the governor’s support of free trade was to blame for manufacturing job losses in the state. “But your governor has convinced you (Wisconsin) doesn’t have problems.”

Despite stumping in Walker’s home state, Trump drew an unflinchingly supportive response as he reamed the Wisconsonite in Janesville – a blue-collar town that has suffered the consequences of the manufacturing decline – drawing boos the moment he mentioned Walker’s name.

Several hundred protesters gathered outside his event Tuesday in Janesville, and hundreds more gathered Tuesday evening in Milwaukee, where Trump is scheduled to attend CNN’s Town Hall event.

Trump’s comments come just a week before Wisconsin Republicans head to the polls to vote in a contest both Trump and his rivals have portrayed as pivotal.

“I’m going to be here the whole week,” Trump said. “If we win Wisconsin it’s going to be over – pretty much over.”

But the New York real estate mogul wasn’t just focused on next week’s primary as he also turned his gaze to his home state, which will vote two weeks later.

And Trump is predicting his home state advantage will help him deliver a crushing defeat over Cruz, who earlier this year knocked Trump’s “New York values” as he sought to corner Trump on his flip-flops on key conservative issues, like abortion rights. Trump now portrays himself as unflinchingly “pro-life” though he used to support a woman’s right to abortion.

Trump re-upped his rebuttal to those attacks, saying he “watched New Yorkers rebuild the World Trade Center.”

But it wasn’t the only revival Trump fronted on Tuesday.

The billionaire also rekindled the notion that Cruz could be ineligible to serve as president because he was born in Canada – a contention that most legal experts have dismissed, though it has never been tested in federal court.

Trump again raised the possibility that Democrats would level a lawsuit against Cruz’s presidential bid should he win the Republican nomination – a lawsuit whose merits Trump said he would agree with.

Trump also addressed the controversy that engulfed his campaign Tuesday, saying that he would remain loyal to his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski after Lewandowski was arrested earlier in the day on charges that he allegedly assaulted a reporter, Michelle Fields.

Trump said that while “the easiest thing” would be to lob his best-known line at Lewandowski – “You’re fired!” – Trump said, “I can’t do that.”

“I’m not going to destroy a man for that,” Trump said.