LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Donald J. Trump had Arkansas booing the Clintons on Wednesday night—arguably the most powerful family in the state’s history.
A month before Arkansas’s primary on March 1, Trump brought his bilious, foul-mouthed, rock ’n’ roll show deep into Clinton Country.
He was appearing at the Barton Coliseum, the site where world-famous circuses and legendary rock acts like Fleetwood Mac, Def Leppard, and Lynyrd Skynyrd have performed. In trademark Trump style, the rally topped anything the arena has ever seen—from spectacle to attendance.
Fifteen minutes before Trump spoke, the arena’s manager escorted by two fire marshals announced that the event had broken ZZ Top’s 1974 record attendance of 11,451 by 49 people. It was hard to believe for many who have attended sold-out shows in the venue considering the empty seats and open spots on the floor. But the crowd cheered as they had for nearly four hours leading up to Trump’s entrance, which was delayed by nearly two hours because of a mechanical problem with his plane.
That didn’t faze the thousands of people—most of them white but from all walks of life and all ages, from infants to the elderly—who arrived at 3 p.m. at the state fairground that sits in the middle of a nearly all-black neighborhood known for gang violence. About 100 protesters greeted the Trump fans at the arena’s gates.
Security was extremely tight, with metal detectors. But there was an undeniable giddiness and excitement in the air as if a rock star was about to appear at this political Mardi Gras.
“I can’t wait to see him,” said a middle-aged blonde named Teresa, who refused to give her last name to the “lame stream media” as she waited in line for popcorn and nachos.
Swinging music that sounded as if Austin Powers was about to sashay into the room instead of a presidential candidate played in a loop for hours. Men in baseball caps criticized Washington and Obama while chewing tobacco. Women in faux fur coats snapped selfies in front of Trump signs. At times, the crowd sporadically called for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks with loud chants of “Woo Pig Sooie.”
One man was dressed up as Paul Revere in a Revolutionary War hat and jacket. Another man preferred a horse costume while yelling “Go Broncos” periodically. A braless woman in a tight white shirt swung a tote bag with the words “Guns and Coffee” printed on it. Families with several children in tow danced around the arena. College students passed out Trump signs, and several men wearing Trump baseball caps waved their cellphones in the air to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.”
When The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” blasted from the speakers, Molly Michaels, an undecided voter in her 60s, jumped up from her seat and began twisting and shouting, “It’s a ’60s revolution!”
Suddenly, The Donald appeared as Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” began blasting. The lovefest halted as the gloves came off.
Trump initially aimed fire at his Republican opponent, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who won this week’s Iowa Caucus.
“I actually think I came in first,” Trump said. “Oh, that voter fraud… You know politicians. They are dishonest cookies.”
Trump also hit Cruz on his Canadian connection and the crowd booed. Naturally, Trump didn’t miss a chance to swing an insult at Bill and Hillary Clinton. “By the way, I have to tell you this," Trump said, "Hillary and Bill left Arkansas—they left you folks. They left you. Whether you like it or not, they left you. I guarantee you, if she or he was here tonight, they wouldn't be having 12,000 people filling up this arena.”
The crowd booed louder.
Throughout his speech, security kicked out several protesters scattered throughout the arena as Trump supporters hissed in their faces. At times, the animosity was palpable.
Trump often stuck with his stump speech that he delivered repeatedly in Iowa, discussing China and Japan’s power, crime, Iran, Common Core, and the need to protect the Second Amendment. But the crowd went ballistic when Trump tackled ISIS.
“We’ve got to knock the shit out of them,” he said. “We are living in medieval times. We are living in the worst time in terms of violence and honor.”
Trump wound down by telling the story about how he bought the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. Trump is transforming the historic building into a $200 million hotel that he hopes to open before January.
“If I don’t make it to Pennsylvania Avenue, I’ll be living on Pennsylvania Avenue anyway,” he said.
But he wants the White House, and it’s his blustery confidence that appeals deeply to Trump supporters. While Beatles-dancing Michaels was undecided before Trump appeared, he wooed her.
“Trump all the way,” she said. “No question. It’s him.”
Jeremy Marshall, 41, who lives in Cabot, Ark., said after the speech that Trump has nothing to win or lose by running. He’s doing it for the love of his country.
“He already has the American Dream,” Marshall said. “He says what he means, and we need that. He’s a businessman. America is a business and a business that is $17 trillion in debt. He’s the one.”