Two days ahead of the second Republican primary debate of the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump had a lot to boast about: his lack of teleprompters, his hair, his refusal to accept “blood money,” his “tremendous energy,” and of course, his continuing lead in the polls.
The same day NBC announced that former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would replace Trump as host of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” Trump addressed a crowd at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, where he promised to release a tax plan in the coming weeks. “We gotta lower taxes for a lot of people,” Trump said, adding that “middle-income people” are being “decimated,” and doubling down on his position that “hedge fund guys” should pay more in taxes to the federal government.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because despite bragging about his ability to speak extemporaneously, without the use of a teleprompter, Trump’s rambling speeches don’t vary much from venue to venue. In Dallas, Trump sang some familiar refrains: “We have to build a wall!” “We’re killing in Iowa!” “We’re gonna repeal [Obamacare]!” “We have to stop illegal immigration!” “It’s really my hair!”
And of course, no Trump stump would be complete without a few personal jabs.
Days after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called Trump a clown on Twitter, the GOP front-runner dismissed the diss, saying, “Who calls people clowns?” And, in a familiar criticism, Trump blasted Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush – both of whom hail from Florida – for trailing him in the polls there.
Trump also harkened back to his feud with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly – albeit in a slightly convoluted way. “We’re going to have so many victories,” Trump said, “that at some point they are just going to be coming out of your ears!” Trump continued, “I have to be careful what I say about coming out of somebody’s ears … Nose, ears, eyes, those are the only places I’m talking about. The only.” After the first Republican debate last month, Trump fielded considerable backlash for saying of Kelly’s debate moderation, “there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
But perhaps more than anyone else on Monday, former White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove – whom Trump called “a total incompetent jerk” – was on the receiving end of Trump’s attacks. Despite Rove’s Texas roots, Trump managed to turn the crowd against him with a series of insults.
By contrast, Trump praised the likes of fellow business mogul Mark Cuban and Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, whom Trump called “a great guy.”
While the Trump campaign anticipated 20,000 supporters would attend the event, a supervisor for the American Airlines Center estimated that 9,500 were in the audience when Trump took the stage just after 7 p.m. ET. By the time the event ended, however, estimates came closer to 15,000.
According to the latest MSNBC/Telemundo/Marist poll, the majority of people living in the U.S. say they do not think Trump is the leader America needs right now.