Donald Trump took big swings at Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush throughout an hourlong, boisterous speech Wednesday on Hilton Head Island.
More than 2,500 people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder into the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa’s grand ballroom -- a record crowd for the space, according to hotel officials -- to hear the leading Republican presidential candidate.
“I love everybody,” Trump said. “It doesn’t matter where, whether it’s stadiums or big ballrooms, it’s amazing. There’s love in the room.”
Although the real estate and media mogul’s speech meandered through his common talking points about international trade and national security, attacks against Clinton and Bush served as a common thread to link the ideas.
Both candidates are “disastrous” and “low energy,” Trump said repeatedly.
When I’m saying we’re going to build a wall, most of (the other candidates) say, ‘You can’t build a wall.’ In China, 2,000 years ago, they built the Great Wall of China, which is bigger than any wall we’re thinking about, OK?
Trump and Clinton have traded swipes over the past week after the leading Democratic presidential candidate accused him of sexism for his use of a vulgar term to describe her loss in the 2008 Democratic primary.
Trump has fired back, referencing Bill Clinton’s past infidelity, and pushed the rhetoric even further Wednesday.
“The husband’s one of the great abusers of the world,” Trump declared.
Blistering attacks against Bush focused on the former Florida governor’s low ranking in national polls and the money “he’s spent advertising, mostly against me,” Trump said.
“He’s spent $59 million on this campaign, and he’s down in the grave, he’s nowhere,” Trump said. “He spent $59 million, I spent nothing.”
Trump has said this week he will begin advertising in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina over the next six weeks ahead of the first GOP caucus and primaries, but he did not elaborate on that plan Wednesday.
The remainder of Trump’s speech ricocheted between the controversial declarations that have become a staple of his campaign, including building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and what he calls lackluster trade agreements with China.
He was particularly fiery about the recent nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran, calling it “the worst deal I’ve ever seen negotiated.” He also hinted at conspiracy theories that suggest the deal is part of longer-term plan to overthrow Iranian leadership and further destabilize the region.
“I’m not a conspiracy person,” he said, as several in the crowd declared they believe the theories. “I’m just hoping they’re just stupid people, OK? Which they are, or there’s something going on.”
The president and Hillary Clinton’s stances on national security and threats from the Islamic State were also a common target Wednesday.
“Of those people who are all gone, they’re all people who attacked me,” Trump said of the Republican candidates who have dropped out of the race. “Wouldn’t it be nice if our country had the same thing? You attack, then poof, you’re gone.”
Despite near-constant backlash for his remarks, Trump remains an eight-point favorite in South Carolina, with 24 percent of likely Republican voters supporting him in the latest Winthrop Poll, released Dec. 7.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is his nearest competitor, with the support of 16 percent of likely primary voters. Another 17 percent of likely voters remain undecided, according to the poll.
Support was more divided at Trump’s rally Wednesday. Some attendees said they are fervent supporters of Trump’s proposed policies, while others said they do not support Trump but could not miss an opportunity to see the man who has dominated American airwaves for the past six months.
What campaign officials had intended to be a “small, intimate gathering” turned into a much larger affair when free tickets to the rally ran out within three days of its announcement last week, they said. The campaign unsuccessfully tried to switch the event to Shelter Cove Towne Centre to accommodate all who wanted to attend, but ultimately fit all of the ticket-holders who arrived into the hotel’s grand ballroom -- which fire marshals had limited to 2,480 attendees.
That’s contrary to the campaign’s announcement that it was forced to turn away 3,000 attendees still trying to enter the event Wednesday morning, and that falls well short of the crowds of 25,000 and 30,000 people that Trump boasts he’s drawn in Oklahoma and Alabama.
Still, the entire crowd Wednesday was about 10 times larger than any gathering held by other candidates in Beaufort County this year.
The visit was Trump’s second local stop since he all but commandeered the Republican primary race this summer. In July, Trump drew capacity crowds, a horde of national media and dozens of protesters at Sun City Hilton Head, where he read aloud U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s personal cellphone number on national television.
Trump hasn’t loosened his grip on the headlines since, and even more national media were on hand Wednesday. Although he did not talk to reporters, who were cordoned off in a pen within the crowd, he did have plenty to tell the audience about them.
“There’s so much dishonesty in the media, and I like to call it out,” he said to the biggest boos of the event. “One of the things that’s really been amazing to me, the level of genius in the public. ... They fully understand, they know (the media) are crooked, they know (the media) are dishonest. ... Who gets worse publicity than me?”
As Trump’s speech neared the one-hour mark, audience members in the back of the ballroom began to disperse while he revisited some arguments from earlier in the speech.
“We’re going to become rich again, we’re going to become safe again, and we’re going to become strong again,” he said amid shouts and cheers. “Remember this moment, this is going to be an important moment for all of us.”
As he left the stage, Twisted Sister’s rock song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” blared from the speakers.
TRUMP SAID WHAT?
The ever-quotable Donald Trump dropped a series of interesting sound bites during his hourlong speech Wednesday on Hilton Head.
Here’s a sampling:
“If I get elected, we’re going to win a lot. We’re going to win so much you’re all going to get sick and tired of winning. You’re going to say, ‘Oh, no, not again!’ I’m only kidding, you’ll never get tired of winning.” (A line Trump uses at almost every rally now.)
“So (President Barack) Obama’s talking about global warming, but a lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a moneymaking industry, it’s a hoax.”
Obama’s “got a problem with the carbon footprint. You can’t use hairspray! Because hairspray is going to affect the ozone. ... They don’t want me to use hairspray, they want me to use the pump ... and then it comes out in big globs, right? And then it’s stuck in your hair, and you say, ‘Oh my god, I’ve got to take a shower again.’ I want to use hairspray!”
“You think (Islamic State fighters’) wives don’t know what’s going on? You think their kids don’t know exactly what Daddy’s doing, when Daddy’s going to fly into the World Trade Center?”
“I love Miss Universe and I love the universe.”