Donald Trump Received By Thousands At Mesa Rally

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - 11:42pm
Updated: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 10:28am
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(Photo by Jude Joffe-Block - KJZZ)
Deborah Maurmann and Robert Lewis, both 23, posed with their Trump gear after the rally.
(Photo by Jude Joffe-Block - KJZZ)
Protesters condemned Trump's national security proposal to temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from entering the United States.
(Photo by Jude Joffe-Block - KJZZ)
Trump made a dramatic entrance to the rally in his private plane as music from the movie "Air Force One" played.

More than 3,000 people turned out to see Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speak Wednesday at the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport, according to airport estimates.

In a speech that lasted for almost an hour inside of an airplane hangar, Trump reiterated his best-known talking points about boosting trade, cracking down on illegal immigration and making Mexico to pay for a border wall. He pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and spoke in favor of gun rights.

The candidate peppered his speech with digs at his rivals and the wide lead he is enjoying in national polls.

Mary Ellen Leister of Tempe showed up two hours early for the noon rally but still faced a long line. She said she had missed Trump’s first Phoenix-area event in July and wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

“And I was mad at myself, and I said, I am coming!” Leister said.

Leister said she loves Trump’s “brashness.” She watched Tuesday’s GOP debate in Las Vegas, where Trump was attacked by fellow candidates about his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States to prevent terrorism after the mass shooting in San Bernardino. But that didn’t faze her. Leister is worried about terrorism and thinks the proposal makes sense.

“They gang up on him because he is the front runner,” Leister said. “But he did act presidential.”

Trump’s position on Muslims attracted a small group of protesters to gather outside of the venue. Protester Samantha Hill, an Arizona State University student, waived a sign that said “Love Trumps Hate.”

“There is no reason that we need to be spreading messages of ignorance and hate, we need to be accepting and loving,” Hill said.

Inside the rally, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio welcomed the crowd just as he had the first time Trump visited the Valley. The sheriff praised Trump for his focus on illegal immigration and noted Trump’s standing in the race had taken off since that last visit.

“I’m very proud of what he has accomplished in the last, what, five months?” Arpaio said. “I’m supposed to warm up the crowd. He doesn’t need a warm up, he is already hot.”

Finally it was time for Trump.  

His red, white and blue Trump plane taxied up to the hangar as the score from the 1997 movie "Air Force One" swelled.

Then as Trump came in the music changed to “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” by Twisted Sister.

But first Trump had to tape an interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News with the rally audience watching. When Trump did take the stage, he spoke about the crowds he was drawing and his popularity.

“I think we are going to win Iowa, we just came out where we are leading in Iowa now, which is a great place,” Trump said.

A Quinnipiac poll of likely Iowa caucus voters released Monday showed Trump at 28 percent and Sen. Ted Cruz with 27 percent. 

Other polls show Cruz with a slight lead over Trump in Iowa. 

Trump said he was building a movement.

“We have a message and the message is, we don’t want to let other people take advantage of us,” Trump said.

Trump didn’t dwell too much on his comments about temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States as a national security precaution, but did reference reactions to that proposal.

“I’ve had friends of mine that are Muslims — I have great relationships with Muslims, I have partnerships with Muslims — and they called me up the other day,” Trump said. “Some very prominent, they said you have done a tremendous service. And all I am doing, we have to figure out folks what the hell is going on. We have some really bad stuff happening.”

On the topic of guns, Trump suggested that if more people in Paris were armed, the recent terrorist attacks there would have been less catastrophic.

“If some of those people had a gun tied to their ankle or a gun tied right up here to their waist, or a gun right over here, they would have had a hell of a fighting chance,” Trump said. “I guarantee you the result would have been a hell of a lot better.”

The candidate’s meandering speech went on for almost an hour which caused some people to drift out early. But plenty of other supporters were pleased, including 23-year-olds Deborah Maurmann and Robert Lewis.

Maurmann wore a red jacket decorated with four Trump pins and Lewis wore a “Make America Great Again” hat.

“It was really awesome, it was really cool,” Maurmann said. “I like that [Trump] is not afraid to speak out about things, he is not worried about necessarily, you know, hurting people’s feelings or anything.”

Lewis was part of the youth vote that got President Barack Obama re-elected last election, but the ASU student said he’s been disappointed.

“Obama is more of a cosmopolitan,” Lewis said. “I’d like a guy who cares more about the American citizen first.” 

Twitter Updates From The Rally