- Trump’s first stump speech of 2024 saw the ex-president lashing out at a growing list of enemies.
- Targets included presumptive opponent Ron DeSantis, the press, and “bullshit” investigations.
- But Trump also appeared out of practice, struggling to connect with the audience when not attacking.
WACO, Texas – Former President Donald Trump spent Saturday night lambasting opponents both old and new, showering first-time rallygoers who came to his 2024 campaign kick-off in central Texas with the list of grievances that has only grown since losing the White House.
The 92-minute speech layered the current legal challenges piling up against the embattled former president atop all the grudges he’s been carrying for years.
He complained about 2016 presidential rival Hillary Clinton and former House Speaker Paul Ryan in one breath, before skewering China and the multiple district attorneys digging through his affairs in the next.
Standing on stage at the Waco Regional Airport, his branded plane parked across from the penned-in media he repeatedly ridiculed to the crowd’s delight, Trump railed against the “corrupt, rotten, and sinister forces trying to destroy America,” a cadre of political opponents he said included “communists, stupid warmongers, RINOs, open-border fanatics and the fake news media.”
‘Final battle’ rhetoric
The former president is seeking another term in the White House while multiple criminal and civil cases against him keep building. The investigations range from his alleged involvement in the deadly January 6, 2021 siege at the US Capitol to the $130,000 hush money payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump categorized every investigation poking around his personal life, single-term presidency, and post-presidential life as bogus “witch hunts.”
He blamed his legal issues on prosecutors running amok, calling the ongoing investigations “bullshit.” Supporters behind Trump held up large signs with “Witch Hunt” on them.
—The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) March 25, 2023
“Prosecutorial misconduct is their new tool, and they’re willing to use it at levels never seen before in our country,” he said. “We must stop them, and we must not allow them to go through another election where they have yet another tool in their tool kit.”
He proclaimed that his current race would be “the final battle.”
“Put me back in the White House and their reign will be over,” Trump told the thousands in the crowd, their cheers rising up to greet him.
The policy side of his speech lasted 15 minutes and didn’t arrive until an hour after he’d started speaking, and was light on details.
If elected president, he promises included solving the immigration crisis at the southern border and using the bully pulpit to engage in GOP culture wars involving education and women’s sports.
There was some polite applause for culture war red meat, but the crowd, assembled in a ruby-red slice of Texas that Trump won by double digits in 2020, was more interested in booing the press and cackling whenever Trump made fun of anticipated 2024 challenger Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
—Acyn (@Acyn) March 25, 2023
Earlier in the day, one of the local officials who helped warm up the crowd told attendees he had a foolproof plan for overcoming just about any issue.
“Re-elect Donald Trump,” he said after ticking off problems ranging from the southern border to the flagging economy. He delivered the punchline close to a dozen times, the crowd whooping it up each time to the one-size-fits-all solution.
An out-of-practice Trump
Trump seemed to occasionally falter during his speech, ad-libbing for long sections that failed to match the incendiary slugfests he became known for during the 2016 cycle.
He may be a bit rusty. While Trump did some sporadic barnstorming ahead of the 2022 midterms — sometimes spending more time airing personal grievances than plugging the candidates he was supposed to help win — he hasn’t done large rallies that dominated his two previous campaigns and his one-term presidency.
While his performance wasn’t as torpid as some recent speeches, Trump seemed to struggle to find a way to connect with his audience when not on the attack.
Nate, a resident of neighboring Lockhart, Texas who declined to give his last name, said after Trump’s speech it would be nice if Trump had been able to focus on the future rather than stew about the past. But he caught himself and noted that that wouldn’t be very on-brand for Trump.
“He’s obviously narcissistic,” the first-time rallygoer told Insider. “But I’ve accepted that because he does a great job.”