Donald Trump held a hastily scheduled rally at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center on Friday evening, and about 5,000 people turned out to see the controversial presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
The thing is, it didn't seem like many of the ticket holding audience members were that interested in hearing what Trump had to say.
After spending less than an hour at the private fundraiser held at Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee's River Oaks home, Trump, split from the shindig to make his way — via motorcade — across town in rush hour traffic to the Woodlands.
Since Trump was running late, speakers kept the crowd entertained by talking up how great a job Trump would do as president, often chewing on his name so that it became a two-syllable word, "Tra-ump! Tra-rump!"
Finally, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appeared on stage. Despite his previous support of Sen. Ted Cruz's bid to secure the Republican presidential nomination, Patrick told the crowd he was confident about Trump. “Donald Trump will be the change agent that you’ve been working for, hoping for, praying for your entire life,” Patrick told the audience.
The Donald himself took the stage about 7:30. By then the hall was mostly full. Trump seemed intent on reassuring the world that plenty of people were eager to attend his campaign rallies. “We were in Dallas yesterday, and there were thousands of people. It was reported that they were protestors, but they weren’t protestors! They were people trying to get in,” Trump eagerly explained.
He gestured to the back of the hall where there was still quite a bit of space next to the water coolers set up for the event, and claimed there were 10,000 to 20,000 people clamoring to get in who had to be turned away because of crowd limits. "There were miles and miles of people outside today who couldn't get in," he said.
Trump touched on a number of issues — in fact he skittered from topic to topic as if he struggled to stay focused — during his speech, which lasted about an hour.
He alluded to the recent violence tied to his campaign rally, the photographer that was clocked in the head with a rock in Dallas on Thursday. “I tell you, you see reports that someone was protesting, but I tell you, the safest place to be is a Trump rally.” The crowd waved their Trump signs and cheered in agreement.
He explained once again why presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won’t make a good Commander-in-Chief. “She won’t be able to make trade deals,” he said. “Everybody is going to be ripping us off as a country.” He insisted Clinton being elected president will be economic ruin for the United States on a level like the current collapse in Venezuela.
Without much transition, he launched into terrorism and the right to bear arms. “Nobody will protect your Second Amendment rights like Donald John Trump,” he said, before stating – sort of – that if the people in Orlando had been armed, they could have prevented the mass shooting last Sunday. (The irony being a man wearing a Trump shirt was taken into custody across the street from the rally because he was allegedly carrying a gun.)
“And you know, we should declare war on ISIS,” he yelled. “It’s war! War!” The audience roared back its approval.
However, after that high-water mark, Trump kept on talking, but people started trickling out of the venue at a steady pace.
He jumped from drug trafficking, to the infamous border wall, to trade deals and manufacturing. He pointed out that Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks Trump is brilliant. He proclaimed that he is obviously the best person to elect if you care about gay rights or women's rights.
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And then, he zeroed back in on his campaign slogan, that him being president will make the United States a better country. “I honestly believe it will make America great again, make America safe again,” he said. “We’re going to win again. We’re going to win so much you’re going to get sick of it.”
By the time he wrapped it up, exiting while "Deep in the Heart of Texas" played, more than a quarter of those attending had already left the hall. Law enforcement lined the walkway urging people to move briskly to their vehicles.
"It's about protecting the Constitution!" one woman said to another as they joined the stream of people leaving the hotel. "If you don't love this country, go home!"
Her companion nodded enthusiastically. "That was a fun night! Wasn't that a fun night? What a wonderful speech."