Trump Seeks to Rally Supporters in Texas
U.S. President Donald Trump was in Texas on Thursday for a campaign rally in Dallas to drum up support from his base in a state that until recently could be counted on to vote Republican but might be shaping up to become a battleground.
Trump arrived in Texas as news broke about the cease-fire agreement reached by the United States and Turkey, with Ankara agreeing to suspend its military operation in Syria to allow Kurdish forces to retreat from a designated safe zone.
Speaking in Fort Worth before participating in a roundtable with supporters and a fundraising luncheon in the city, Trump called the cease-fire "an incredible outcome" and "something they've been trying to get for 10 years."
Trump said he was looking forward to the Texas rally, calling it "a record crowd."
Thousands of his supporters lined up outside the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas, with several dozen having camped outside the venue since Tuesday evening.
"I am so excited. I'm so pumped. Couldn't sleep this morning. I just wanted to get here so bad," said Daylene Randham of Fort Worth, adding that she loved Trump for his "America-first policies from day one."
"I think he's gonna electrify this crowd," said Gayle Roberts, who said he’d flown in from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to attend the event, his eighth Trump rally so far.
The president has given Texas a lot of attention; this was his sixth visit to the state and third campaign rally here in the past year. He held a fundraising trip through Houston and San Antonio in April, visited El Paso in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in August, and joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a "Howdy Modi" event in Houston last month.
Impeachment ‘a lot of bull hockey’
Thursday’s rally was Trump's first visit to the state since opposition Democrats began their impeachment inquiry — something his supporters here dismiss.
"It's a load of bull hockey," said Vicky Debolt of north Texas. "If it was real, they would have brought it out sooner. So I think it's just a lot of bull hockey and a bunch of lies and I don't believe it."
Mike Adams of Decatur, Texas, said he did not believe Trump was pressuring the Ukrainian leader for dirt on his potential 2020 political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden — the allegation that House Democrats are basing their impeachment inquiry on.
"If somebody knows that other people did something wrong in their country, and you can talk to them about it, and they can help share that, what's wrong with that?" Adams said.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden or his son Hunter Biden, as Trump has alleged.
Trump insists that he did nothing improper in his call with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy. But on Thursday, Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff admitted the administration withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Democrats.
Asked about Mulvaney's statement that contradicts Trump's position that there is no quid pro quo in his dealing with Zelenskiy, the president said he has "not heard anything about it", adding that "Mick is a good man".
Trump also said that he has accepted Rick Perry's resignation. The Secretary of Energy is also entangled in the the impeachment probe into Trump's actions involving Ukraine. Trump said he will announce Perry's replacement at the rally.
Blue county in changing state
The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is important to Trump, as it is a solidly blue region in a state that until recently was staunchly Republican.
"Dallas is probably the number one target area," said Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report, a publication focused on Texas politics. "I don't think the president is vulnerable in Texas. But I don't think his numbers are nearly as good as we would normally presume, and he's got to keep the base fired up."
Dallas is also one of the largest cities in the United States with a large suburban area, where a lot of the election fight will take place, said Shannon Bow O'Brien, who teaches American politics at the University of Texas at Austin.
"Texas is a growing state and it's growing in the cities," said O'Brien, "With the growth in the cities, a lot of the growth is Democratic voters."
A rally in an arena with a 20,000-person capacity in a conservative state may also provide a welcome diversion for a president embattled by an impeachment inquiry and a foreign policy crisis.
"It's a way for him to get a personal boost," said O'Brien. "I think this is a way for him to feel better about the fact that many people out there still love him."
Louis Vuitton factory
Prior to the rally, the president attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Louis Vuitton Rochambeau factory near Alvarado, Texas, with Bernard Arnault, chairman of the French luxury conglomerate.
Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, accompanied him to emphasize the administration's job creation record.
Louis Vuitton signed the "Pledge to America's Workers," a Trump administration initiative to bring "better jobs that deliver bigger paychecks" to American workers. The leather goods workshop in Keene, a small town near Alvarado, is expected to create about 1,000 jobs over the next five years.
The luxury brand will be getting a 10-year, 75% tax abatement from the county, the maximum allowed, which amounts to about $91,900 in tax cuts a year.
Meanwhile Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke was staging a counter-rally at the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, about 22 kilometers away.
"Our message is solidarity," said Tramon Arnold, political director of the Dallas County Democratic Party. "We're not here to make any ill light of the [Trump] event but to show solidarity that we're here to make sure that we get President Trump out of office."
Saqib Ul Islam and Jesusemen Oni contributed to this report.
by via Voice of America - English