You know what they say: Fourth time's ... a bust?
Donald Trump's rally on Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix was perhaps most notable for being nothing special.
With promises of protesters and biker-gang militias patrolling the parking lot, the afternoon event seemed poised to become yet another headline-grabbing Arizona Trump rally. But whether it was the heat advisory, the ridiculously high number of law-enforcement agents dispatched to the area, or something else entirely, the rally didn't deliver.
As temperatures outside soared to 109 degrees, a slow but steady stream of Trump fans trickled into the fairgrounds all afternoon. After passing a line of tables covered in purchasable Trump paraphernalia and the throng of media and security personnel darting between patches of shade, that was about it — unlike past rallies in which people waited hours to get in, there was no line this time around to get to the venue entrance.
In addition to the official security detail – which included officers with the Phoenix Police Department, the Department of Public Safety, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, the Secret Service, and the Transportation Security Administration — about 10 men and women carrying walkie-talkies and wearing various forms of camouflage or American flag clothing huddled together under a canopy near the first security checkpoint. One man explained that they were not necessarily Trump supporters, but rather "here to patrol the event for our fellow American citizens."
Pressed for more information about the details of their independent security operation, one woman wearing dark sunglasses coldly replied, "No, no, we can't really tell you anything."
Meanwhile, in nearby Encanto Park, about 50 protesters with signs and a giant inflatable Trump effigy — dressed in a KKK robe and holding a hood — set up shop along 15th Street.
The protest, too, was relatively subdued. There were few shouting matches with Trump supporters, and no punches thrown or attempts to block a road. Once the protesters made it clear they had no intention of infiltrating and disrupting the rally, most media left, whereupon the protest promptly fizzled.
Back at the air-conditioned Coliseum, the atmosphere wasn't much more exciting. Many rally-goers ate nachos or other concession-stand goodies to pass the time, while others wandered around or scrolled through their phones.
There was a little action when a sort of who's-who of local right-wing political figures showed up and schmoozed near the media pen or took selfies with the Trump fans: Sheriff Joe Arpaio, State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, former Representative Kelli Ward, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party Robert Graham, State Senator Steve Smith, and State Representative John Kavanagh, to name a few.
In contrast to Trump's previous rallies, the vibe at this one was pretty dull. Where were the rowdy frat boys in matching "Make America Great Again" hats? Where were the mother-daughter pairs yelling about "Crooked Hillary?"
Trump's first visit to Arizona came on the heels of his comment about undocumented immigrants being rapists and drug dealers, and as such was filled with an air of "what will he say next?" The setting for his second visit was an airplane hangar, and the crowd went nuts when his plane pulled up and Trump got out and walked across the tarmac. And his third visit made national headlines after a group of protesters blocked a major road and had to be forcibly removed.
It's unclear why the energy at this rally was so low, but it was odd. (According to DPS, one Trump supporter was escorted out of the building after he refused to take off his "Fuck Islam" shirt, but it wasn't much of a scene.)
Around 3:30 p.m., with the 12,000-capacity stadium less than half full, the rally finally kicked off.
Wearing a white cowboy hat, Speaker of the House David Gowan walked to the podium amid shouts of "USA, USA." He delivered a rambling speech about federal overreach, the Second Amendment, the heroin epidemic, and filling the Supreme Court vacancy.
Next, former governor Jan Brewer took the stage to sing Trump's praises, followed by Graham, and then Arpaio. The sheriff bragged about not using a teleprompter, about being the first person to endorse Trump, and about "locking up" the protesters who tried to disrupt an earlier Trump visit.
And then, in what has become a classic Trump move, Arpaio ripped into the media and inspired the audience to turn and "boo" at the few dozen journalists corralled in the media pit.
"Scum!" one man yelled.
"Hey, CNN, what are you lying about now?" screamed another.
There were a few more speakers, and finally, at about 4:20, the audience stood up, cell-phone cameras at attention, and waited for their candidate. Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" played in the background.
After a few minutes, the music cut out abruptly and suddenly 2 Unlimited's "Get Ready For This," that signature hit from Jock Jams Volume I, blasted from the speakers. With that, Trump took the stage. For the next 40 minutes, the presumptive Republican nominee waxed poetic about himself and his ability to solve the nation's myriad problems. From ISIS to unemployment, Trump assured the crowd, he's got the country covered.
He alleged that President Barack Obama "has done nothing for the African American youth and everyone knows it," and promised to "[give] the largest tax cut of any president ever." He talked about "Crooked Hillary" and "Crazy Bernie," but made no mention of Elizabeth Warren, whose derisive Trump nickname "Pocahontas" has angered a lot of critics of late.
As usual, the crowd went wild whenever he mentioned building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and then again when he called himself the insurgent candidate.
"We need Trump! We need Trump!" one man yelled, prompting others to join him until the entire audience was screaming. Trump stood at the podium and soaked it in.
"This is a movement!" he said to the cheering audience. "I'm on the cover of every magazine. I feel like a supermodel times 10! I'm on the cover of so many magazines I can't even read all the articles because then I wouldn't get anything done."
He talked about veterans' issues, trade deals, how "America is basically a Third World country," and so on. He said nothing he hasn't said before – it was Trump's Greatest Hits.
As he often does, Trump ended his stump speech with the promise that if he's elected, the country will start winning so much that people won't know how to handle it. "'Mr. President, you're winning with everything, you're driving the people of Arizona crazy!'" he said.
As the crowd cheered, Jock Jams came back on and Trump walked off the stage with a wave.
That was it?
Any rumors about possible disturbances post-rally were quickly put to rest — the protesters were long gone. As the sun began to set, people filed out of the Coliseum and into the blisteringly hot evening, "Make American Great Again" signs in hand.
It was an eerily peaceful end to an eerily peaceful Trump rally.
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