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Trump kicks off 2024 campaign with rally in Waco on Saturday afternoon

Though this crowd makes up Trump’s most loyal supporters, they are not entirely dismissive of other Republican candidates.

WACO, Texas — Former President Donald Trump will hold his first major campaign rally of the 2024 election cycle on the ramp at Waco Regional Airport late Saturday afternoon.

The campaign set up 1,000 chairs in front of a podium and lectern from which Trump will speak. The city said it planned for up to 15,000 people to attend.

“Waco is a little bit of an unusual first site for a campaign rally for the presidential cycle in 2024. It is centrally located so it does offer an opportunity to pull people from Dallas, Austin or Houston,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant and chairman of the Travis County Republican Party.

Taking the stage Saturday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he is the person who selected Waco after receiving a phone call from Donald Trump.

“The president called me several weeks ago and said I'm coming to Texas. I want you to pick a great town,” Patrick explained.

Among the things political observers are watching for is whether Trump will say anything about the multiple criminal investigations against him and Republican rivals like Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

“I actually think his other legal problems in Georgia and New York State and perhaps even at [the U.S. Department of Justice] are more serious than this particular case [in Manhattan]. Looks like they’re trying to take a misdemeanor and upgrade it to a felony on a unique legal theory,” Mackowiak added.

Many are also curious whether Trump might acknowledge the 30th anniversary of the federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound, a few miles from here. That deadly firefight in 1993 is where the modern-day radical right was born.

Trump supporters began showing up at the Waco airport on Friday evening.

“It took us about five hours to get here in total,” said Hali Brown, from Shreveport, Louisiana.

“We got in line at 12:00 a.m. We were the second in line,” said Carter Enis, accompanying Brown.

Interestingly, unlike any other president or candidate and more fitting of a national political convention, a large merchandising operation has emerged around Trump. Outside the airport gates, vendors from Wisconsin, North Carolina and other places have erected three rows of tents, selling tables of T-shirts, caps, stickers, and flags supporting Trump and far-right causes. Business was steady as supporters waited hours for gates to open.

“They say the Trump campaign is dead but as you can see it is still alive and well,” said Jim Gibbs, from Dallas.

Gates opened at noon on Saturday as supporters walked through metal detectors manned by federal T.S.A. employees and U.S. Secret Service agents. On the airport ramp, where planes normally taxi and park, food trucks worked through steady lines that remained more than 40 people deep.

Though this crowd makes up Trump’s most loyal supporters, they are not entirely dismissive of other Republican candidates.

“I love all those candidates; Nikki Haley I thought would be a great – maybe secretary of state, maybe vice president. But president this time? No. DeSantis I thought would be a fabulous candidate for 2028. I don’t like that [former U.S. House Speaker] Paul Ryan and establishment people like [former Florida Governor] Jeb Bush are supporting him because I like the outsider mentality,” said Nicole McCormack, from Montgomery, Tex., north of Houston.

“I feel like Ron DeSantis might have his run one day but for right now it’s a Trump nation,” said Carter Enis, from Shreveport.

Stars of the far-right came to Waco for the Trump event including congress members Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, along with MyPillow pitchman Mike Lindell and musician Ted Nugent.

Pastor Robert Jeffress from Dallas’ First Baptist Church addressed the Trump supporters briefly. Patrick and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller were the two highest ranking state officials to attend.

In attendance, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, MyPillow pitchman Mike Lindell, and musician Ted Nugent.

Before playing the Star Spangled Banner on his guitar, Nugent asked for – and got – a moment of silence for the Trump supporters who were charged and convicted of crimes related to Jan. 6.

Trump’s 757 is supposed to ferry him to Texas this afternoon. He is scheduled to speak at 5:00 p.m.

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