PHOENIX – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hoped his seventh visit to Arizona Saturday afternoon was the charm to ensure victory, rallying in downtown Phoenix as he fights to win the state’s 11 traditionally Republican electoral votes.
“The silent majority is back,” Trump told an appreciative, roaring crowd at the Phoenix Convention Center. “In 10 days we are going to win the state of Arizona, and we are going to win back the White House.”
Trump sounded familiar-themed messages but hit hard on the spiking costs of the Affordable Health Care Act in Arizona – one of the highest increases in the nation – and on a Friday notice from FBI Director James B. Comey that the agency is looking into newly discovered emails that “appear to be pertinent” to its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
“Government corruption spreads out like a cancer,” Trump said, repeating a claim that the election system is rigged. He has said he will accept the results of the presidential election if he wins but left in doubt whether he will follow generations of precedent and concede to Clinton if she wins the majority of electoral votes.
Hundreds lined up outside the convention center before 5 a.m., hours before Trump’s mid-afternoon appearance.
Shelly Paulk, a Latina who lives in Phoenix, said Trump will win the Latino vote because “he doesn’t lie, but the polls do.”
Polls show a tight race in Arizona, which hasn’t gone blue for 20 years, when state voters re-elected Bill Clinton as president. In a signal that Arizona is a battleground state, Hillary Clinton is returning to the Valley on Wednesday, her second visit since March.
Rob McElwain of Phoenix was among a group of protesters. He hand-painted Trump signs that alluded to recent reports that Trump has sexually assaulted women. Trump denies it and says he regrets “locker room talk.”
Trump “is a broken man, he’s soulless,” McElwain said.
Inside the convention center, the crowd waved signs, alternately applauding the Trump platform and booing Democratic initiatives such as rising costs of the Affordable Care Act Care system.
Trump pledged to repeal the system if he is elected and put in health insurance system that costs people “a tiny fraction” of what is now.
Arizona residents who purchase insurance through the system’s marketplace can expect to see the largest rate increases in the nation when open enrollment for Obamacare begins next week, but advocates say those increases should be offset by similarly large increases in tax credits for consumers.
Many in the crowd carried “Women for Trump” signs and, throughout Trump’s hourlong speech, chanted “lock her up” and “drain the swamp” as he talked about government corruption.
Trump’s campaign in the Grand Canyon State came full circle as he returned to the convention center, where he held his first Arizona rally in July 2015.
Trump spoke fondly of that time, saying he made a major policy statement in his first appearance in Arizona, which he said broke records with a crowd of 15,000. He said the crowd Saturday was another record breaker at 15,000, but convention-center officials capped the hall capacity at 10,000.
Convention Center PIO Cynthia Weaver said there were 6,698 in attendance. Officials said about 500 others were turned away.
Trump was last in Arizona earlier this month for a rally in Prescott Valley, where he brought up building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and his plan to make Mexico pay for it.
Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. was in the Valley earlier this week, campaigning at Arizona State University in an effort to turn out millennials for his father.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has also been rallying the Arizona vote, with visits from her daughter Chelsea Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama and her former opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Clinton’s visit to Arizona on Wednesday, less than a week before the Nov. 8 election, shows she wants to repeat the history of two decades ago.
Arizona election officials predict a historic election turn out, with nearly one million early ballots cast so far.
“We’re 10 days away from the change you’ve waited for your whole life,” Trump said as he ended his speech, pledging an America full of love and justice.
Chandler resident Kathy Wilson, 58, called the rally mood “electric.”
“If he can accomplish half the things he says he wants to do in the country he will be going in the right direction,” Wilson said.