Donald Trump promises to bring Arizona along on the ride to making America great
PHOENIX – Donald Trump brought his trademark “make America great again” presidential campaign to the Arizona desert Saturday, rallying voters giddy over his proposals to build a wall along the Mexican border, ban Muslims from coming into the country and put a conservative on the Supreme Court.
Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, alternately praised former and current Arizona elected leaders and went on a wide-ranging discourse on terrorism, the Second Amendment, jobs and education at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Thousands attended the afternoon rally, with about half of the 15,000-seat coliseum seats filled. As temperatures soared, eventually reaching 109 degrees, authorities started letting people in by mid-morning to escape the heat.
Inside the air-conditioned coliseum, supporters gave Trump a warm welcome. The candidate, who has drawn criticism and praise, began his speech by calling Arizona “his first big state.”
He quickly switched to terrorism, stating that the Orlando shootings that left 50 people dead, including the gunman who pledged allegiance to ISIS, was “not about guns, (it) was about terrorism.”
He promised to protect the Second Amendment, and referred to his longstanding relationship with the National Rifle Association, calling them “great people.”
“If in that club…you had someone with a gun strapped on to their hip, somebody with a gun strapped onto their ankle, and you had bullets going in the opposite direction, you would have had a very, very different result,” Trump said.
Trump continued to cover some well-worn topics for 45 minutes, like trade, jobs and education.
If he wins, he promised to “knock out the Common Core” and “repeal Obamacare and replace it.”
He acknowledged his upcoming battle against Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, reviving his nickname for her as “crooked Hillary.”
On immigration, he said that “we want people to come into our country, but we want them to come into our country legally,” to applause and cheers from the audience. He reiterated his plans to build a border wall and stressed the importance of keeping the southern border tight.
“The Mexicans, the Hispanics” support him because he promises to bring jobs to the country, he said.
The crowd applauded when he said “we’re going to have a great Supreme Court justice system.” Congressional Republicans have blocked a nominee submitted by President Barack Obama.
Unlike some of Trump’s previous appearances around the country, including a Fountain Hills rally in March where protesters blocked traffic, the rally was relatively peaceful. One man who wore a t-shirt with an obscenity about Muslims was escorted from the fairgrounds before the rally.
About 50 Trump opponents mainly stayed at a voter registration rally a few blocks away at Encanto Park.
A giant Trump inflatable with a sign, “make America hate again,” drew honks from passing cars while other protesters held up signs like “build kindness, not walls.”
Before the rally started, Trump was introduced by a number of influential Arizonans, including Sheriff Joe Arpaio, State Treasurer Jeff Dewit and former governor Jan Brewer, who has been mentioned as a possible running mate.
“I don’t know if you should say this about a woman, but she’s a tough lady,” Trump said. He did not mention the Republican who holds the state’s top job, Gov. Doug Ducey.
Trump arrived in Phoenix from another rally in Las Vegas, where he said there “were so many women with signs up ‘women for Trump.'” He believes that he is doing “very well” with women and “unbelievably well with the Mexicans.”
Supporters, many of whom held up signs given to them by the Trump campaign, felt generally positive about the speech.
Jason Hanrahan of Phoenix said he remains open-minded about the candidates, he did find Trump’s speech “electrifying” and said that “his background in business should promote well to an office like president of the United States.”
Nicky Hulstine, who is originally from England, attended the rally with her husband. Both agreed that he was “very inspiring.”
Another Arizonan who attended, Derek Sanderson, called Trump’s immigration proposals “impractical.”
A supporter of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders found his way into the rally and was told to take off his campaign pin. He did, then put it back on after the rally. He had a predictable reaction to Trump.
“Most of the stuff he said was garbage,” Robert Contreras said.
Anna Copper, Krandall Bartley, Jiahui Jia, David Marino Jr., Gabriel Sandler, Christina Tetreault and Anokina Touman contributed to coverage.
Correction: This article initially misstated the number of people killed in the Orlando nightclub shooting. Fifty people died, including the gunman.