WACO, Texas – Former President Donald Trump made his first major campaign stop of the 2024 election cycle Saturday night, as people from all over Texas and across the country flocked to Waco in support of the 45th president.
“It’s great to be back in this beautiful and incredible state, with thousands of proud, hardworking American patriots,” Trump said.
The rally, held at Waco Regional Airport, comes amid a looming, unprecedented possible indictment of the former president over investigations of hush money payments to women like adult film star Stormy Daniels who alleged sexual encounters with him during his first election in 2016.
“I never liked horse face, I never liked her,” Trump said during the rally. “The new weapon being used by out of control unhinged democrats that cheat on elections is criminally investigating a candidate.”
His supporters started lining up around sunrise Saturday, showing up in the thousands and decked out in Make America Great Again gear. They had to wait hours in near 80-degree temperatures until Trump took the stage around 6 p.m.
“Taking back the country starts in Texas,” Brian Bodine from Dallas said. “Liberty is strong in Texas, and I think the president knows that,”
His supporters, some who held “Witch Hunt” signs during Trump’s speech, seemed un-phased at the possibility of criminal charges against their candidate.
“The democrats just want Trump to go away so they’re playing this card right now,” Bodine said.
Some traveled from the Houston area to see the former president.
“He was a great president, and I think he’s going to be our next one... he’s going to clean this country up,” said Jeanette Paschal of Cypress, who also said criminal charges wouldn’t change her vote.
Mike Fossen and his wife traveled from Cypress as well, waiting an hour simply to find a parking spot.
“Things are a little bit rough right now in our country but there’s hope on the horizon,” Fossen said. “I just kind of play it by ear I don’t get too caught up in all that and see what happens.”
Waco city officials estimated 15,000 people would attend Saturday’s rally. An exact count hasn’t been shared.
Other speakers during the event included Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.
Patrick called the controversy over holding the rally in Waco at this time, as people mark 30 years since the deadly Waco Siege, unfounded.
A spokesperson for the Trump campaign told The Associated Press the airport location, 17 miles from the Branch Davidian compound, was chosen because it was conveniently situated near four of the state’s biggest metropolitan areas — Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio — and has the infrastructure to handle a sizable crowd.
Patrick claimed he personally helped Trump pick McLennan County, where Trump beat President Joe Biden by more than 23 percentage points in 2020.
Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene among others also spoke to supporters.
Trump spoke for 90 minutes, as supporters waved goodbye and at least one held his hands in the shape of a heart, as his 757 took off into the sunset.