Trump Begins 2024 Campaign in Waco

Trump Campaign
Former President Donald Trump | Image by Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock

Former President Donald Trump held his first rally of the 2024 campaign in Waco on Saturday evening.

The rally started mid-afternoon with a performance by Ted Nugent, a Motor City rock legend and conservative activist.

It was followed up by speeches from a slew of elected officials, including U.S. Representatives Roger Williams (R-TX), Wesley Hunt (R-TX), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick also joined the lineup of speakers.

Early in the rally, The Dallas Express spoke with two GOP precinct chairwomen who were volunteering, shepherding lines of farm trucks into grass parking spaces.

Janine Chapa, from Hutto, TX, was attending her first Trump rally.

“We’re so excited he decided to come here. I’ve always wanted to attend a Trump rally, but I was always busy. So, I’m really excited,” she told The Dallas Express.

Some other locals did not share Chapa’s sentiment.

The chairman of the McLennan County Democratic Party, Mark Hays, dismissed the former President’s rally as a distraction and an unwanted reminder of the Waco siege in a statement provided to The Dallas Express before the rally:

“We feel like Donald Trump’s visit is a distraction from more important issues. Especially the legislation going on in the 88th Texas legislature, and so we think it’s a show. I had told the Democrats I’ve recommended to them that they stay home and mow their lawn tomorrow. If the intention is to dredge up the 30-year-old Branch Davidian tragedy — a lot of Waco people are offended by his attempt to use that for his game, so we are staying away.”

Chapa argued instead that the rally’s location had been chosen due to its proximity to George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford.

“I think it’s here because George Bush lives here, in Crawford. When you think about what Bush stands for with his never-ending wars, people now realize we were getting suckered into wars like Ukraine. So, I think the opinion of Bush here in Waco has changed.”

Sonya Ayers, a precinct chairwoman from Georgetown, TX, interjected to agree.

“We’re not going back to Bush. George Bush, we thought, was a decent governor,” she continued. “But he didn’t secure the borders. He didn’t get us voter ID. Greg Abbott, actually, got us voter ID. Bush talked about it, but he didn’t do it. We loved him and his association with the Texas Rangers. Then, when he became President, it was like our eyes opened, and he was not the man he purported himself to be.”

Ayers was quick to connect Bush to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Though DeSantis has not declared candidacy for the presidency, he is widely seen as Trump’s most likely serious challenger for the 2024 Republican nomination.

“DeSantis is a Bush Republican,” Ayers claimed. “Look who he surrounds himself with: Paul Ryan, Karl Rove, and Jeb Bush.”

Early in the rally, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick dismissed the assertion that the rally was chosen to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Waco siege.

“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.’ That’s the reason he’s here.”

Spring heat on Waco Regional Airport’s tarmac sapped energy from arriving crowds as Reps. Greene and Gaetz delivered speeches criticizing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation and potential indictment of Trump.

The representatives received scattered applause from supporters waiting in multi-hour-long lines for water. Nine food trucks served the crowd, but four ran out of water within an hour of the gates opening.

EMT staff tended to a few seniors who fainted among the crowd.

One of the EMT staff expressed her exasperation with the event’s planning.

“They have obviously underestimated the heat and how much water would be needed,” she told The Dallas Express.

Grumblings and faintings continued through a long intermission in programming as the crowd awaited Trump’s arrival.

Finally, “Trump Force One” arrived to the tune of “Highway to the Danger Zone.” The crowd rose to their feet and cheered the former president’s entrance to the stage.

Trump mostly updated the audience on his multi-front legal and political battles. He also discussed what he called Joe Biden’s “failing presidency” and expounded on his work as president from 2017-2021.

The former president highlighted his legal battles with Bragg and recounted at length his battles with the Department of Justice.

“The district attorney in New York, under the auspices and direction of the ‘Department of Injustice’ in Washington, D.C., was investigating me for something that’s not a crime, not a misdemeanor, not an affair.”

Trump also took aim at DeSantis, describing the moment DeSantis asked for his endorsement for governor of Florida in 2018.

“He came to me with tears in his eyes,” Trump claimed.

Yet Trump’s focus remained on mounting political and legal hurdles, which he eagerly folded into campaign messaging.

The message: “2024 will be the final battle.”

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