Trump Endorses Arrington, Fry Before Shivering Crowd of Hundreds
FLORENCE, S.C. — Former President Donald Trump has certainly drawn bigger crowds, but those who gathered to see him at Florence Regional Airport Saturday night quite possibly made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in numbers.
Trump, still popular in the Carolinas, would likely have drawn more people to what had been billed as a day-long event if the weather had not taken a dramatic turn in the hours before he hit the stage to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”
After days of bountiful sunshine and day time temperatures in the 80s, a strong cold front moved over the state early Saturday morning, dumping torrential rain in some parts of North and South Carolina. Behind the front, temperatures plummeted.
The rain helped turn Terminal Drive, the road leading to the event, into a muddy mess in a hurry. By nightfall, the Trump faithful, most already wearing winter coats, were happy to huddle together to keep warm in the temporary grandstands set up for the event.
“Wow, what a crowd this is,” Trump said as he took the stage shortly after 7 p.m.
“It’s freezing out. It’s freezing out here. But we’re going to warm it up,” he promised.
“I love South Carolina. What a place,” Trump continued. “But nobody told me it was so cold in South Carolina. …. But this is going to keep us awake.
“I want to thank everybody for being here. It’s incredible. I heard you went through rain storms and everything else and you’re freezing your asses off. This crowd is unbelievable. Thank you,” he said.
Trump used most of his brief, meandering appearance to assail the Biden administration over inflation and its handling of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, brush off well-worn talking points on the alleged unfairness of the 2020 election and how the “fake news” media refuses to report the true sizes of the crowds he draws, to dismiss climate change and to endorse two candidates for Congress.
At one point he jumped between predictions that the war in Ukraine could lead to World War III and that climate change would create more ocean front property, to what he said was a record-breaking crowd in Texas.
“We always have the biggest crowds,” Trump said. “No politician has ever drawn the crowds we have. Honestly … we’ve even broken Elvis Presley’s records.
“We were in Texas two weeks ago and we had 87,000 at the state fair and they turned away 50,000 people and the head of the fair, a wonderful old guy, came up to me and said, ‘You know, I never thought I’d see it, but you broke Elvis Presley’s record.’ And I said, yeah, and I didn’t even have a guitar.”
In fact, the president appeared at the El Paso County Coliseum two weeks ago, an arena that holds about 8,000.
A spokesman for the El Paso Fire Department said about 6,500 were actually inside the venue and a few thousand more watched the former president’s speech on big screens set up outside.
Before segueing back to the faults he finds in Biden’s energy policy, Trump acknowledged the attendees who were making up the backdrop for Saturday’s speech.
“You know sometimes I’ll go home and I’ll check [a rally] out on television because I’ll say, ‘I wonder how it looks.’ And there will be somebody in the audience behind us that is so stunning, so handsome or beautiful, that you cannot take your eyes off that person.
“These rally attendees are so stunning,” Trump said, “that sometimes Hollywood calls those people …
“So we’ve made a lot of really great stars here,” he continued, gesturing behind him.
“We’ve never made a star out here,” he added, gesturing in front of the podium, “but they’ve enjoyed the speeches very much.”
Turning to the midterm election, Trump predicted that “eight months from now the people of South Carolina are going to vote to fire the radical Democrats” and elect “an incredible slate of true, America-first Republicans.
“You’re going to re-elect your governor, Henry McMaster … and together we’re going to end [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi’s political career one and for all,” he said.
“But before we defeat the Democrats, socialists and communists at the ballot box this fall, we first had to defeat the RINOs and grand standers in the primaries earlier this year,” he said.
RINOs — short for Republicans in name only –— “are no good,” Trump said. “In many ways; they are just as bad as Democrats, and sometimes worse. We’ve got plenty of RINOs in the party, but I must say, far fewer than four or five years ago.
“Unfortunately for the patriots of South Carolina, you currently have two atrocious RINOs who went to Washington, sold you out, partnered with the Democrat party to stab the Republican Party and, frankly, stab our country in the back.”
“Right here in [South Carolina’s] 7th congressional district, Rep. Tom Rice is a disaster. He’s respected by no one in Washington. … And he was just censored by your great South Carolina GOP.
“He joined the Democrats’ impeachment witch hunt hoax … and he parroted their lies and gave aid and comfort to their weaponization of the national security state against their domestic political opponents,” Trump said, adding, “and now he looks like a total fool. He said, ‘I didn’t know when I voted to impeach President Trump that I was committing political suicide.’ Hopefully it’ll be true.
“Then in the 2nd congressional district you have another horrendous RINO known as crazy Nancy Mace,” the former president continued. “Two years ago, she begged me for my endorsement and she pledged to be America-first, all the way. Then the first thing Nancy Mace did when she got to Washington was start attacking Republicans and hold a fundraiser for wacky Liz Cheney.”
Trump then went on to accuse Mace of deceiving voters by filming a campaign commercial in front of Trump Tower in New York after learning he was going to endorse another candidate this time around.
“Can you believe this?” Trump said. “It was untruthful just like everything else she does. Thankfully, this June you have the chance to dump these grandstanding losers and replace them with rock solid, America-first champions.”
With that he endorsed Russell Fry in the 7th congressional district and Katie Arrington in the 1st congressional district.
“Russell is a warrior who will give no quarter to the socialist left. Likewise, Katie is a fighter for the people of South Carolina,” Trump said.
This is Arrington’s second go-round in a race to represent the 1st congressional district. In 2018, she defeated incumbent Rep. Mark Sanford in the primary, then lost to Democrat Joe Cunningham in the general election.
Afterwards, Arrington pointed the finger at Sanford for her loss, arguing his lack of support for her after their June primary battle helped seal her narrow — 1.4-percentage point — loss to Cunningham.
“We lost because Mark Sanford could not understand this was about the conservative movement, and not him,” Arrington told reporters at the time.
Sanford, of course, was a three-term congressman before serving two-terms as governor of South Carolina. His governorship ended amidst scandal after he admitted to having an affair with an Argentine woman.
He then served an additional term in Congress during which he was a frequent Trump critic.
Trump couldn’t resist firing back Saturday night, referring to Sanford as “Mr. Argentina” as he welcomed Arrington to the stage.
“She had a chance to win that race,” Trump said of 2018, “But she was horribly, horribly injured in an automobile accident and never had the chance to campaign. That was a tough time, but she’s been fantastic and she’s been loyal and she loves the people of South Carolina.”
“I know you spoke earlier, but come up and say a few words,” Trump said to the two candidates. “Then we’ll get the hell out of here because it’s freezing.”
The South Carolina primary is June 14, which coincidentally is Flag Day and Trump’s birthday.
After Trump’s remarks, Rice released a statement that said, “Trump is here because, like no one else I’ve ever met, he is consumed by spite.”
“I took one vote he didn’t like and now he’s chosen to support a yes man candidate who has, and will, bow to anything he says, no matter what,” Rice said.
“If you want a Congressman who supports political violence in Ukraine or in the United States Capitol, who supports party over country, who supports a would-be tyrant over the Constitution, and who makes decisions based solely on re-election, then Russell Fry is your candidate,” he continued.
“If you want a Congressman who cowers to no man, who votes for what is right, even when it’s hard, and who has fought like hell for the Grand Strand and Pee Dee, then I hope to earn your vote,” he said.
In a sign of how big organizers thought the Trump event would be, the parking lot for the venue opened at 8 a.m. Saturday, 11 hours before his scheduled remarks. The doors opened at 2 p.m and the program, featuring speakers and patriotic music, began at 4 p.m.
Several people said they’d slept out at least a day in advance to get a good seat.
Prior to the rally, ticket holders were emailed a set of instructions for entering the venue and a warning on the lengthy list of banned items.
“All guests will be screened by the United States Secret Service upon entry into the event,” the advisory said. All guests attending Saturday’s rally were highly encouraged to wear masks and facial coverings during the entry and screening process to the event where six feet of social distance was not available.
Dan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue
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