Mar 26, 2023

Trump Doubles Down on Explosive, Insult-laden Rhetoric During Rally in Waco

Reporting Texas

Rally goers applaud during a presidential rally for Donald Trump in Waco, Texas on March 25, 2023. Jinpeng Li/Reporting Texas

WACO — Former President Donald Trump, employing the apocalyptic rhetoric he is known for, falsely claimed the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him,  ripped into the New York District Attorney who may indict him and blasted his political rivals during a rally at the Waco Regional Airport in Waco Saturday evening.

Trump spoke to a mostly admiring crowd of several thousand people, many of whom had waited hours in the glaring sun for him to speak during the first official event of Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.

The former president called the New York District Attorney investigating him for crimes related to hush money payments to former porn star Stormy Daniels “absolute human scum,” referred to Stormy Daniels as “horse face,” and blasted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential challenger to Trump for the GOP presidential nomination.

The rally came as Trump faces hurdles in his bid to reclaim the White House. Republican voters will have to decide whether to stand by Trump as other Republican contenders enter the race, and as the former president faces several possible criminal indictments.

Indictment Reaction

Most of the crowd appeared unphased by Trump’s latest legal troubles, with many holding signs reading “WITCH HUNT,” and “I stand with Trump.” 

Trump said the New York prosecutors  “have nothing,” and that he may be “the most innocent man in the history of our country.” 

Debora Harrison, 49, is a single mom of three and a nurse living in Waco, and she said she doesn’t think Trump did anything illegal and will be voting for him in the 2024 Republican primary. 

“They’ve been trying to pin something on him for so long,” Harrison said. 

Chris DeCluitt, vice chair of the McLennan county GOP called the New York investigation an example of political theater. 

“This could not be more political and less about the law,” DeCluitt said. “It’s stage acting,” 

Merchandise tent at a presidential rally for Donald Trump in Waco, Texas on March 25, 2023. Jinpeng Li/Reporting Texas

The possible indictment may fire up the Trump base, but it is a “net negative,” for Trump’s chances, says Patrick Flavin, professor of political science at Baylor University in Waco.

For Republican voters who supported Trump in 2016 and 2020 only because they did not want to vote Democrat, “this might be yet another nudge to look around for another nominee that wouldn’t have the same political baggage that Trump has,” Flavin said.

Why Waco

Before Trump took the stage, politicians including Congress Members Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Texas’ Lt. Governor Dan Patrick spoke to the crowd. Patrick took credit for Waco being the site of Trump’s first 2024 rally. 

“I picked Waco because the president called me several weeks ago and said, ‘I’m coming to Texas, I want you to pick a great town,” Patrick said. 

DeCluitt called Trump’s visit to Waco an honor. “We are humbled and proud that President Trump would choose to start here and we invite all Presidential candidates to come here and see how great central Texas is,” Decluitt said. 

Trump won McLennan County by about 23 points in the 2020 election.

Flavin said Waco may also have been chosen because of “undercurrents of Waco’s notoriety with the Branch Davidian siege 30 years ago.” In 1993 a federal raid on an end-of-times cult known as the Branch Davidians left 86 people dead near Waco. The event became a rallying cry for the anti- government movement in the United States.

The parallels to Trump’s frequent “skepticism of the federal government and continued use of the phrase ‘the deep state,’” are notable, Flavin said. 

Thomas Duncan, 60, spoke to Reporting Texas in the security line outside the rally. Duncan lives in Waco and echoed some of the same skepticism about government the area is known for, saying he hopes Trump gets elected in 2024 so he can “go in and clean out the establishment.” 

Duncan, who said he gets most of his news from websites such as InfoWars, TruNews and Rumble — websites that traffic in conspiracy theories — was most concerned with securing the border, electing someone who will “run the country like the Bible said.”

Trump support wavering? 

Although attendees at the Trump rally seemed united in their characterization of the potential Trump indictment as a “witch hunt,” not everyone planned to vote for Trump in the Republican primary. 

Waco resident, Prentiss Cross, 50, Waco,  said he likes Trump but is worried about how effective he would be if elected. 

“They’re not gonna let him (Trump) get anything done,” Cross said. 

Cross said even Waco is “not as red as it looks,” and he named Desantis or Defeated Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake as his preferred choices for the 2024 Republican nomination. 

Decluitt, who spoke to Reporting Texas before the rally, said he is undecided on who to support in the 2024 primary, and said he personally felt uncomfortable with Trump’s calls for protest in response to his potential arrest, saying, “I don’t think that’s helpful.”

Most of the crowd, however, seemed to be unwavering Trump voters, and excitement in the crowd reached a high point when Trump’s plane, nicknamed “Trump Force One” landed at the airport. 

Austin Langeland, 35, drove three hours from Houston to see Trump, and said he will definitely vote for the former President in the GOP primary and general election in 2024. 

“He’s bold! He stands up and does what he’s gotta do,” Langeland said after taking a selfie with the plane in the background.