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Mixed reviews at Trump's Texas campaign rally

Crowds gathered in Waco, Texas, to hear the former president speak as he hits the campaign trail, despite a looming indictment.
Posted at 11:11 AM, Mar 27, 2023

With a possible indictment looming in New York, former President Donald Trump went to the heart of Texas to deliver a broadside against the prosecutors investigating him on multiple fronts. 

"The new weapon being used by out-of-control, unhinged Democrats to cheat on an election is criminally investigating a candidate, bad publicity and all," Trump said during a campaign rally in Waco.

This is friendly turf for Trump and fertile ground for sowing the seeds of resentment. The crowd in Waco lined up early, hours before the rally was scheduled to start.

"This is like going to a concert, a Super Bowl party or something," Trump supporter Kim Visecky said.

Plenty of stalls of swag for sale — unabashed displays of devotion.

"He's superman to me, because he's … honest," another Trump supporter said.

and just like Texas bluebonnets in the spring, conspiracy theories were in full bloom with some.

"And I'm going to keep fighting for the truth of what happened. And that truth got me thrown in jail," Trump supporter Micki Larson Olsen said. Olson is a conspiracy theorist who was sentenced to serve 180 days in federal prison in connection to a misdemeanor charge from January 6.

The sun baked the waiting crowd overhead — and so was the man at the center of their universe. Former President Donald Trump's plane did two flyovers of the crowd of thousands before landing to adoration.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg gets out of a car as he arrives at his office.

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Inside, the themes were familiar. Along with his attack on prosecutors, there were the familiar false claims that he won the 2020 election, resentment over continued investigations. Trump spoke for more than an hour and a half about immigration, settling scores with rivals and making baseless claims about the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

"You will be vindicated and proud and the thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited and totally disgraced," Trump said.

His campaign picked Waco, they said, because it's in central Texas, close to big cities. He also won this area handily in both 2016 and 2020.

"Trump won McLennan County, where Waco is, by over 20 percentage points in the previous election. Texas is also a great place to talk about immigration and the border, which are issues that he tends to bring up at rallies," political science professor Pat Flavin said.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is shown.

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Supporters, like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, called Trump "the one true leader of the GOP," but there was some criticism of the former president after the rally.

"He whined a lot. I thought we'd come and hear about what maybe he'd implement in the future if he was to become president again, but he got up and whined a lot. So it was kind of disappointing," said college student and self-described conservative Grace Hornbaker.

Hornbaker and other college students were among attendees seen leaving after about 40 minutes into his speech.  

"[Grace] may think of it as whining and to an extent, I may agree, but more than that — if you look at the broader message of what Trump is trying to say, he's trying to show the weakness of the Democrats of these past two, three years," self-described conservative Sayek Shafiq said.  

Other supporters offered effusive praise 

"He's very consistent. I like what he says. I think our country is being run away with by people that have no right of doing what they're doing to people. I think there's wrong on both sides, but I think Donald Trump is the guy to lead us out of this," Trump supporter Bob Oliver said.