Former President Donald Trump gave a wide-ranging speech on Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, touching on items from purported election fraud to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The former president walked out to “God Bless the USA” as he took the stage. His entrance was met with chants of “USA” from the crowd as he began his remarks. He was the headliner for the CPAC in Dallas, which ran from Friday through Sunday.
The ballroom at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, which holds about 3,300, was mostly full at the front and thinned out in the back.
“For a year before the election, the fake news media said Texas was in play,” Trump said. “And they were right, except it was only in play for me, for me and you actually. … It will never be in play if we have the right candidate. This state is never gonna be in play. This is a very, very special place.”
Trump vowed to, with the help of those at the conference, “defeat the radical left, the socialists, the Marxists and the critical race theorists.” He also said borders would be secured, “left-wing cancel culture” stopped and “free speech and fair elections” restored.
He later said the 2020 election was “rigged,” though experts have said there’s been no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
“And we will make America great again. Very simple,” he said.
Near the top of his remarks, Trump gave a shout-out to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is seeking reelection and has garnered primary opponents. He called Paxton a “true Texas conservative and a real leader.”
“We love Ken,” Trump said.
He reiterated his calls for a border wall and border policies from his time as president. Gov. Greg Abbott, who Trump has endorsed for reelection, recently announced that Texas was building a wall of its own on the border.
“Wheels and walls, they never change,” Trump said. “In a thousand years you’ll say ‘wheels and walls.’ Walls work. … Now the Biden administration has turned the border into the single greatest disaster in American history, and perhaps in world history.”
Before Trump spoke, CPAC announced the results of a straw poll taken of attendees. In a survey of who they’d like to see as president in 2024, Trump got 70% of the votes in the version of the question where he was among potential candidates. In the version where Trump’s name wasn’t among contenders, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis got 68%. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott got 1% in that version of the poll and Ted Cruz 4%.
“The Democrats want me out, and they want me out as fast as possible,” Trump said. “And here I am. I could have a nice beautiful life and here I am on a Sunday in Texas.”
The crowd chanted “four more years” in response.
Texas politicians also take CPAC spotlight
He didn’t speak until the event’s final day, but Trump was front and center at the three-day conference that drew conservatives from across the country to Texas.
Those in attendance included a number of speakers from Texas, such as area congressional representatives, Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, after doing an interview in a exhibit hall with booths set up by candidates and shops selling Trump gear, said he was there as an attendee to listen to candidates and see what the Republican Party is doing.
Congressional District 6 candidates Susan Wright, who has been endorsed by Trump, and Jake Ellzey also made stops at the conference. Ellzey said he went to a ticketed dinner that was held Saturday evening where former Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke.
The event also attracted Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers militia, and two men wearing Proud Boys hats, who were seen walking around the event, according to the Dallas Morning News
Many at the conference wore Trump gear as they explored the Dallas hotel. Matthew Jow, 18, from Fort Worth waited on Sunday afternoon for what would be his first time hearing the former president speak in person.
Ahead of the speech, Jow said he was hoping to hear Trump “roasting” Hunter Biden and the Biden administration. He was also seeing more insight on whether Trump would again run for president.
“If Trump runs again, it’s going to be a landslide — a landslide the votes will actually show or reflect,” Jow said, fashioned in a shirt promoting Trump for president in 2024 that he bought from one of the vendors Sunday.
Camie Chandler of Royse City said she too planned to watch Trump’s speech. She wanted Trump to discuss the border wall as well as “what our teachers are teaching our children,” referring to critical race theory. She wore a red cowboy hat emblazoned with the words “Make America Great,” a Texas spin on a “Make America Great Again” ballcap.
“I’m a big Trump supporter,” she said.
Attendees react to Trump’s CPAC speech
Those in the crowd funneled out of the ballroom after Trump wrapped up his speech as “Y.M.C.A’ played in the background.
“He’s legit,” Jow said. “He’s way better than any Democrat could ever be.”
Nedra Babcok was in town from Tulsa.
“I love him,” she said. “I’ve seen him about three times.”
It was also her third CPAC. The others she went to were in Washington D.C., so the weekend’s event was a relatively short distance. Asked what stood out to her about he speech, Babcock said her attention was drawn to the differences between Trump and President Joe Biden.
“Just the fact that when he goes through everything that was and that was no longer, that Biden’s changed that was so good for our country, and they’re destroying it,” she said. “I think he’s awesome.”
Diane Andrews of Plano and Lee Jenkins of Dallas traveled a short distance Sunday, but going to listen to the former president is nothing unusual for the North Texans. They’ve gone to other rallies in the past and were at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the day it was stormed, but said they didn’t go inside.
Asked what stood out, Andrews replied, “well, other than the election fraud, the crisis at the border and how terrible Joe Biden’s doing and what a joke this presidency is, but we knew all that because we follow Trump all the time.”
“The only thing we were hoping to hear that we didn’t hear (is) that he’ll be running in 2024,” she said.
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