OKLAHOMA CITY – It was like a reunion tour for Donald Trump Friday night.
For a third time in this campaign, he played to thousands of receptive, enthusiastic Oklahomans, listing off his greatest hits in a wide-ranging – and, at times, scattered – 50-minute speech.
The businessman pushed his usual talking points at the Cox Convention Center, calling once again for a “$10-12 billion” Mexican-funded wall to stop illegal immigrants, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, standing up for veterans and standing against terrorists.
There were his usual digs: at political correctness, at the media and at the country’s “weak and stupid leaders.”
But, from the outset, Trump made it clear he’s determined to fend off Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – also in Oklahoma City Friday – who has emerged as a GOP establishment favorite.
“They hate him in Florida. They hate him,” Trump said, almost as soon as he had taken the stage. “He defrauded Florida, if you think about it. He runs, he becomes a senator, he doesn’t show up to vote, he’s never around.”
Trump got a hand in his attacks from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a recent presidential-race dropout and, on the campaign trail, a frequent Rubio critic.
Christie endorsed Trump for president Friday and appeared with the front-runner on stage.
“America needs a strong leader who will restore American strength around the world, and Donald Trump is that man,” Christie told the crowd. “Marco Rubio, your campaign is almost over, buddy. He’s showing a lot of desperation today, throwing punches from a lot of angles, but none of them are landing, because America has made its decision. Donald Trump represents strength. Marco Rubio represents Washington, D.C.”
Trump’s biggest applause lines of the night included his pledge to protect the second amendment and gun owners, remarking: “Boy, you people do like your guns, don’t you?”
He also got an ovation for pledging to end Common Core education and for calling himself “the greatest jobs president that God ever created. We’re not going to get ripped off anymore.”
The brash style is what his supporters and campaign volunteers said they like about the businessman.
“I like how he’s bold, and I like how he’s not afraid to say things that other candidates may not,” said Jackson Balkman, who isn’t even old enough to vote.
“This country wasn’t built on political correctness,” said Curtis Wilson. “It was built on businessmen, hardworking men and leadership skills.”