A diminished Donald Trump triggers a third presidential campaign in Texas
WACO, Texas — Thousands of Donald Trump’s most dedicated fans gathered for a rally at Waco Regional Airport on Saturday, hoping to bring the scandal-ridden and increasingly isolated candidate back to the top of the Republican Party and President.
The Trump campaign billed the appearance in Waco as the first official rally in the former president’s third run for the White House.
This is a favorable place for Trump. Back in the 2020 election, he beat Democratic rival Joe Biden by more than 23 percentage points in McLennan County, which includes Waco. And the symbolism of appearing in the city, the site of the federal government’s headquarters in 1993 against the Branch Davidian religious group that stockpiled guns and left dozens dead, dovetails with Trump’s fierce anti-establishment streak. .
Waving banners that read “Take America Back” and apparel striped with the American flag, supporters dismissed the long string of allegations threatening to land Trump in legal trouble.
Texas native Manuel Flores flew home from California to attend the rally with his family.
“It’s an amazing crowd,” Flores told HuffPost. “Apart from all the ongoing controversy with Donald Trump, I’m glad we have really good energy here…I hope this rally comes to fruition and we have a good president again.”
But Trump faces a long battle to rekindle the devotion he once enjoyed in Texas, as he stumbles across several high-profile investigations while trying to navigate his way through a tough primary.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is conducting a grand jury investigation into silent payments to an adult movie star that Trump says will soon end in an indictment.
The former president also faces a federal investigation into his handling of classified documents at his Florida home, an investigation into his role in the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot, a criminal investigation in Georgia for allegedly interfering with the 2020 presidential election and a civil suit that could result in the revocation of his right to do business in New York.
However, none of this has diminished Trump’s stature in the eyes of his most enthusiastic supporters.
“If they had serious charges, that might change my mind,” said Craig Cantrell, who drove up with his wife from nearby Rockdale.
“They’ve been after this poor guy for one thing after another,” Austin resident Colleen Ford told HuffPost. “Do I think he’s polarizing? Yes. And he’s kind of an asshole, the way he talks to people. But if I’m going to hire a supervisor, I’m not going to do it based on their personality… I’m going to pick the best person for the job.
Few high-profile Texas politicians planned to attend the rally, with no member of the state’s congressional delegation confirmed to attend Thursday, according to Insider.
That’s partly because Florida Governor Ron DeSantis — already Trump’s most formidable primary challenger in the 2024 presidential race, even though he hasn’t officially declared his candidacy — is now currying favor Texas conservatives.
The few polls taken in recent months show that DeSantis is neck and neck with Trump. Meanwhile, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) endorsed DeSantis in the primary. And the Florida governor’s culture war agenda has served as a model for Republicans in the Texas Capitol.