DALLAS — Donald Trump on Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of his presidential campaign with a Dallas rally that checked all the boxes for his remarkable White House bid.
Occasionally chaotic and thoroughly freewheeling, Trump rallied hundreds by reiterating his original campaign promises, reflecting on the nomination fight and talking derisively about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. It was his first public appearance in the state since he became the presumptive GOP nominee, an improbable journey that began on June 16, 2015.
“This is the one-year anniversary,” Trump said, “and hopefully we’re going to make it a worthwhile year.”
Trump reiterated his gleeful anticipation of debating Clinton, but he offered one caveat in an acknowledgment of her legal troubles.
“I assume she’s going to be allowed to run,” Trump said, polling his audience. “I mean, you tell me.”
Trump also looked forward to the Republican National Convention next month in Cleveland, where he again floated the idea of having sports stars speak instead of politicians. Calling it a potential “winner’s night,” he suggested one of the speaking slots go to legendary Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight, who endorsed Trump in the run-up to the Hoosier State primary.
At the same time, the billionaire seemed to be adjusting to his new role as a candidate in the general election, repeatedly lamenting how he has faced more scrutiny – particularly from the media – since the end of the GOP primaries. “Actually, beating the Democrats is harder because the press is so dishonest,” he said.
Trump was more triumphant as he reflected on the past year, recalling how he emerged victorious from a 17-candidate primary. That field included Texas’ junior U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, whose exit from the race after the Indiana primary effectively paved the way for Trump to capture the nomination.
“We won Indiana in a landslide, and then everybody said, ‘We’re going home. This is too much,'” Trump said, lightly jabbing at then-rivals who thought the state was going to be their “great firewall.”
Despite being on the home turf of Cruz, who has not endorsed Trump, the billionaire did not mention his former opponent by name. Recalling the homestretch of the primary, Trump only alluded to the Texas senator and another ex-rival, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, as “a governor and a senator, both smart guys, good guys.”
Trump was far more interested in taking the fight to Clinton, whom he accused of wanting to raise taxes and effectively abolish the Second Amendment. He also criticized her and other Democrats’ response to the recent terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group killed 49 people at a gay nightclub.
“L-G-B-T is starting to like Donald Trump very much now,” Trump said, later proclaiming he would better represent the group better than Clinton could. “You tell me who’s better for the gay community and who’s better for women than Donald Trump.”
Trump did not let another presidential candidate go unmentioned: U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s stubborn foe for the Democratic nomination. Trump saluted Sanders for hanging on against Clinton, even as his chance of victory has plummeted. “He doesn’t give up,” Trump said.
Trump’s speech was derailed at least fives times by protesters, who were escorted out by police largely without incident. Trump mixed it up with at least one critic, who was wearing a cowboy hat and whom Trump said had interrupted him more than once.
“The protester just gave me a great idea: We’ll sell ‘Make America Great Again’ on a cowboy hat,” Trump said. “Thank you, Mr. Protester. That’s going to sell well in Dallas.”
In another off-the-cuff moment, Trump expressed some familiarity with the venue he was speaking at, Gilley’s South Side Ballroom. Apparently referring to the club’s mechanical bull, he said he wanted to “ride that horse” and he speculated that the media would not give him a fair shake even if he managed to stay on it.
Trump was introduced by a number of elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville, Tarrant County Commissioner Andy Nguyen and Wayne Christian, the Republican nominee for railroad commissioner. Burgess, in what appeared to be a previously unplanned appearance, took the stage recalling how he used to attend rallies for one of Trump’s vanquished GOP rivals for the White House: Cruz.
“I’ve never been to a Donald Trump rally. This is a different experience,” Burgess said, going on to note how he has not shied away from supporting Trump since Cruz dropped out. “I didn’t say I was endorsing the nominee of the party.”
Outside the campaign event, hundreds of anti-Trump supporters stood shoulder-to-shoulder protesting and holding signs that read, “Trump Make America Hate Again,” “Donald Demagogue” and “Deport Racists Donald.”
The rally was largely peaceful. Some argued that a Trump presidency would be a “nightmare” and said his controversial rhetoric about Muslims and minorities shows he doesn’t have the right temperament to be an effective commander in chief.
“We cannot have him as the president of the United States,” said Albert Valtierra, a Vietnam veteran and San Antonio native. “It cannot happen.”
Before the rally, Trump attended a fundraiser elsewhere in Dallas for the Trump Victory fund, a joint fundraising committee that benefits Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee. Among its hosts were RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and Dallas investor Ray Washburne, a vice chair of the Trump Victory fund. Attendees were asked to raise or give $500 to $250,000.
At the rally, Trump said he had “some fantastic folks” at the fundraiser, including local billionaire Andy Beal. Trump went on to muse about putting Beal “in charge of China.”
Trump’s trip to Dallas marked the beginning of a multi-day swing through Texas, mainly to raise money for his campaign. Trump is scheduled to attend two more fundraisers Friday afternoon, one in San Antonio then another in Houston. He is set to finish the day with a rally in The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will attend all three events Trump has Friday in Texas, Patrick spokesman Allen Blakemore said. Gov. Greg Abbott’s office has said he will not be able to meet with Trump during his trip to the state because the governor has “previously scheduled activities.”
The campaign of Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, tapped U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, to respond to Trump’s trip to Texas. Castro, rumored to be on Clinton’s shortlist for running mate, said in a statement Trump’s “message to the Latino community is clear: You are not American.”
“As Trump visits Texas over the next few days, let it be clear that his hateful rhetoric is not welcome in our community,” Castro said. “Let it be clear that we will raise our voices against him in November.”
Khorri Atkinson contributed to this report.
This story originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2016/06/16/dallas-trump-speaks/