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Trump casts 2024 contest in apocalyptic terms at Waco rally


Trump doesn’t just face legal peril. His effort to lock in the Republican nomination faces a potential challenge from DeSantis, the governor of Florida, amid signs that his own support is softening, at least in places like New Hampshire, an early primary battleground.

“I’m not a big fan,” Trump said of DeSantis. “Florida has been tremendously successful for many years, long before this guy became governor.”

The former president is seeking to turn the hush money case in New York to his advantage by raising money off it and using it to rally supporters. On Friday, he said the country faced potential “death and destruction” if he was charged with a crime.

Trump’s escalating rhetoric has repelled at least some within his own party.

“Trump is walking on a high wire without a net, telegraphing that he has nothing to lose and is willing to risk dangerous outcomes to rally support,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist in Washington.

Few supporters have heeded his calls to take to the streets to protest his possible indictment in the Manhattan case and Trump did not repeat any such call on Saturday.


Trump did speak of “demonic forces” trying to demolish the country, which he said was at risk of falling into a “lawless abyss” unless he is voted back into the White House. Trump depicted the United States as a failed state whose economy was in freefall – a description at odds with the country’s record-low unemployment rate.

With a hand over his heart, Trump stood at attention when his rally opened with a song called Justice for All performed by a choir of people imprisoned for their roles in the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. Some footage from the insurrection was shown on big screens displayed at the rally site as the choir sang the national anthem and a recording played of Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Trump also found time to nurse old grievances and return to the extreme allegations and name-calling that were a hallmark of his presidency.

Several times Trump repeated the false claim that his election loss in 2020 was due to a systemic fraud orchestrated by the Democrats. He described some American officials and senior US politicians – including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell – as a bigger threat to America than China or Russia and claimed to be fighting Marxists and Communists.

“Either the deep state destroys America or we destroy the deep state,” Trump said.

Speaking ahead of Trump’s speech, Matt Schomburg, 45, said he believed the rally was a way to energise his supporters for the 2024 race.

“We are so divided as a country and Trump did so many good things for the economy, the border – we’d just love to have his leadership again,” said Schomburg, who works in insurance and is from Houston.

While some pundits had expressed concerns about possible violence, the atmosphere was festive and there were no reports of trouble, although some rally goers struggled with the heat. Medics were called in to assist one woman who passed out near the media pen.

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