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Former President Trump launches presidential campaign in Waco as potential indictment looms

Tens of thousands of supporters gathered in Waco on Saturday to watch former president Donald Trump make his plea for president once again.

WACO, Texas — As former President Donald Trump is set to face a possible indictment, he took the stage in Waco to launch his presidential run for 2024.

Tens of thousands of people showed up at Waco Regional Airport on Saturday for a rally in shirts branded with Trump’s signature “MAGA” slogan and dozens of flags in support.

Trump was set to address the crowd at 5 p.m. but did not arrive until nearly 6 p.m. However, the 45th president of the U.S. wasted no time sending a clear message.

“When this election is over, I will be president of the United States,” Trump said.

Throughout his speech, Trump touted his accomplishments during his tenure, blasted the Biden administration and pointed to what he calls "one witch hunt and phony investigation after another."

Trump could face criminal charges for alleged hush money paid to former porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election. 

"The district attorney of New York, under the auspices and direction of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., was investigating me for something that is not a crime, not a misdemeanor, not an affair," Trump said.

Trump also took jabs at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is being eyed as a top contender to challenge him for the Republican seat. 

"Based on polls, he's not doing OK with anything," the former president said.

According to Jim Henson with The Texas Politics Project, DeSantis has been trailing in favor with voters but could be top rival, although DeSantis has not yet entered the race for president. 

"I think Ron DeSantis is attracting attention, particularly from Republican elites who are looking for somebody who's Trump but without the baggage. I don't think we have evidence yet that actual voters have made that decision yet, and we won't for a long time," Henson said.

Henson noted it's too early to tell what will play out in the coming months, but said Texas is a driving force for the Republican playing field – and currently, Trump's numbers are in his favor.

"Whether you are trying to get the Republican nomination or trying to win the presidency as a Republican, Texas' size and conservatism makes it a key component of a winning strategy for any Republican. And so there's a basic political logic to President Trump," Henson said.

Another question posed ahead of Saturday's rally was the location, as it comes on the heels of the 30th anniversary of the Waco siege.

"The context is there, particularly given the president's association with the Jan. 6 riots, etc. So that is hovering over this in more mundane terms," Henson said. 

But Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick quickly debunked the narrative before he introduced Trump, saying he had picked the location himself and any other theory was "fake news."

Before the rally, KVUE talked to supporters who said they were there because they felt there needed to be change come next election. One supporter told KVUE he hopes someone, even if it isn't Trump, is able to provide that change.

"My support here is for the policy of Donald Trump. I mean, a lot of people out here saying, 'Let's support the man,' I'm fine with that. He's the tip of the sword right now. But if somebody else steps up and has the same policies, I can certainly see myself supporting them," said Rusty Lee, who attended the rally.

Kelsey Sanchez on social media: Facebook | Twitter  

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