Donald Trump

Trump Lingers on Past Wins, Taunts Democratic Opponents at Phoenix Rally

President Trump speaking to the crowd.
President Trump speaking to the crowd. Bri Arreguin-Malloy
President Donald Trump spent his first visit to Arizona in 2020 touting his past wins, patting his local Republican allies on the back, and taunting his Democratic opponents with a barrage of nicknames and insults.

He also made sweeping celebratory statements about policies in Arizona, a state that has traditionally voted Republican but is forecast to be a battleground state in this November's presidential election.

Trump's Wednesday night rally at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum — the first of three he has planned in western states over the next three days — drew upwards of 14,000 jovial supporters, some of whom started lining up nearly a day before the president took the stage to "USA" chants at 7:30 p.m.

Hundreds of protesters also came out to the rally, gathering in a designated "free speech" area near the state fairgrounds with messages on signs including "Donald Trump is Destroying America," "Dump Trump," and "Lock Him Up."

Trump spent nearly an hour and a half onstage, charming the affable crowd in red hats and cowboy boots with reminders of his past wins. He touted low unemployment, economic growth, terrorist assassinations, and trade deals under his presidency as reasons "America is respected again."

click to enlarge Trump onesies exist. - BRI ARREGUIN-MALLOY
Trump onesies exist.
Bri Arreguin-Malloy
"Washington Democrats keep on losing their minds," Trump said. "They hate the fact that we're winning."

At one point, the president spent several minutes rehashing his 2016 election against opponent Hillary Clinton. He went over his own memories of polling at the time, the media's coverage, and the specific states he won on election night.

"You know, her husband said she was going to lose," Trump said of Clinton. "You better go to Wisconsin, Hillary."

Trump also took aim at several 2020 Democratic candidates, at the same time as they went head-to-head with each other in a Democratic primary debate in nearby Nevada.

"I hear he's getting pounded tonight," Trump said of Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg, who he repeatedly called "Mini Mike," a dig at the former New York City mayor's height. "He spent $500 million so far and I think he has 15 points. Mini Mike was at 15 and Crazy Bernie was at 31."

The president also poked fun at former Vice President Joe Biden, whom he called "Sleepy Joe Biden," and Elizabeth Warren, whom he called "Pocahontas," a jab at her claims of Native American heritage years ago, for which she has since apologized.

"Unfortunately, she self-destructed anyway," Trump said. "She lost because she couldn't keep it straight on her own heritage." (Warren, in fact, is still in the race and spoke more than any other Democratic candidate at Wednesday's debate.)

But the debate seemed far from the minds of the spectators at Trump's Phoenix rally. Instead, the audience let out booming cheers at Trump's mentions of policies and values that are popular among Arizona conservatives — notably, the right to keep and bear arms and legislation against sanctuary cities.

"Thankfully, Arizona has banned sanctuary cities," Trump said at one point in the rally, a talking point that got huge screams from adoring crowds but isn't quite true. While a ballot initiative prohibiting sanctuary cities has been introduced in the State Legislature, voters would have to approve the measure in November for it to take effect.

Though most of Trump's time on stage was spent solo, he started his speech by inviting a gaggle of prominent Arizona Republicans up to join him.

Governor Doug Ducey, U.S. representatives Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, David Schweikert, and Debbie Lesko, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, and Arizona Senate President Karen Fann were all on stage together at one point. Trump singled them out, lauding them for their loyalty.

"She looked with such indignation at the other side," he said of Lesko's public criticism toward Democrats during the impeachment trial, which he called a "hoax."

Trump also offered callouts to Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer, Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, and in an unexpected moment, former Arizona Coyotes hockey player Jeremy Roenick.

"He's an Arizona hockey great, a friend of mine," Trump said. "He's a great golfer, too. He's a tough golfer. He's tough to beat. He's tough as hell. And if you beat him in golf, he'll beat you physically."

The former NHL forward was recently fired from his role as an analyst with NBC Sports after making comments on a podcast about possibly having a threesome with a coworker.

click to enlarge Senator Martha McSally made an appearance at the rally. - BRI ARREGUIN-MALLOY
Senator Martha McSally made an appearance at the rally.
Bri Arreguin-Malloy

Once the group of Republican lawmakers left the stage, Trump brought Senator Martha McSally on stage by herself. McSally faces a tough Senate race in 2020 against Democratic opponent Mark Kelly, an astronaut who has raised more funds than McSally and has emerged ahead in recent polls.

Trump called the former fighter pilot ands senator a "tremendous person" who "helped me so much during the impeachment hoax."

McSally appeared to double down on her support for Trump at the rally, addressing news outlets who were present as the "liberal hack media" and railing against Kelly for saying he would support Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders if Sanders were the Democratic nominee for president.

“He said last week that he would support Bernie Sanders if he was the nominee and his socialist agenda," McSally said. "Mark Kelly is flying on Bernie Sanders’ wing, and I’m flying on your wing, President Trump."

Trump ended the rally with a speech about the "pioneers and prospectors, cowboys and miners" he said founded Arizona, and with a joke about his administration's wins.

"I don’t want you going to your governor and saying, 'Governor, governor, we just can’t stand winning so much,'" Trump said.

As crowds left the rally, attendees came face-to-face with protesters, in some cases resulting in nasty confrontations. On one street corner near the coliseum, a chanting protester spurred a passing rally attendee to yell, "Shut up, loser!"

Trump left Arizona on Wednesday night as quickly as he arrived, boarding Air Force One for a flight to Las Vegas after the rally. He had rallies planned to Colorado and Las Vegas on Thursday and Friday.

But with the presidential election ahead and McSally's seat also up for re-election this November, Trump assured crowds he'll be returning to the Grand Canyon State soon.

His campaign's national press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said the campaign viewed the rally as an opportunity to "broaden the coalition" in Arizona, which they still view as a "Trump state."

"We'll be back a lot," Trump said.
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Ali Swenson was an editorial fellow for Phoenix New Times starting in 2019.