Nothing has changed but the stakes. From the American Airlines Center last September to Gilley's Southside Ballroom last night, this is still Donald Trump's show.
The presumptive Republican presidential candidate showed up in Dallas on Thursday as unlikely party standard bearer. He's the guy who, unless something unprecedented happens at the GOP convention next month in Cleveland, is the only thing that stands in the way of at least four years of Hillary Clinton being president of the United States.
Given this responsibility, any other candidate might feel called upon to outline specific policies to draw the clearest distinction possible between him or herself and his or her opponent. But Trump does not. He is still showing up to preach his own cult-of-personality.
Trump's speech is meandering, but his worldview is easy to grasp. There are things that are good — the wall, his primary performances, the Second Amendment — and things that are bad — Clinton, undocumented immigrants and the media. Trump calls them out and the crowd responds. Repeat as necessary.
"Where are my protesters?" Trump asked at one point, actually inducing a protester to shout back at him before being escorted out by Dallas police. "Don't hurt them. I always say that, don't hurt them."
There were local flourishes. Trump repeatedly referred to Gilley's mechanical bull as a horse and said that even if he rode it successfully, the media would only report that he fell off.
Trump loves Texas, he told the packed, sweaty crowd of about 4,000, but that doesn't really explain why he wasted precious hours in a general election campaign holding a rally in a deep red state. Trump won't lose Texas unless there is a Johnson-Goldwater-style landslide in our future.
Trump complained about the United States' airports — they are "third world," he said, and don't compare favorably with those in places like the United Arab Emirates — which could be a sore spot in a region that hosts two major carriers.
He patted himself on the back for his stance against Muslims in light of the Orlando attack on a gay-friendly night club and told everyone that the "LGBT is starting to like Donald Trump very much lately," to silence from the crowd.
He's going to cut everyone's taxes he said, unlike Clinton, who will raise them "55 or 60 percent" and he's going to build the wall. That's the showstopper and Trump's most succinct policy proposal.
"Build the wall, build the wall!," the crowd chants for the third or fourth time today, defying the voices outside the hall. They aren't racist, Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller made clear when introducing the candidate, they are just putting Americans "first, next and last."
The protestors outside would not agree. A sizable group of protesters marched between the barricades set up by Dallas police on Lamar Street, seemingly subdued by the heat. DPD said they made one arrest and made seven "extractions" — pulling protesters or Trump supporters out of groups that got hostile. Someone in the crowd threw a rock that hit sometime Observer photographer Danny Fulgencio in the head, but he went back to work after medics bandaged him up.
Inside the hall, the curious quietly mixed with committed Trump supporters. William (who scurried off before the Observer could get his last name), an intern for Republican Texas Senator Bob Hall, said on the way out of the rally that he'd shown up hoping that Trump would show some policy chops now that he's the nominee. What he'd gotten instead was more of the same, William said. It was a fitting epitaph to the rally, and to the Trump campaign right now.
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