SIOUX CITY — Speaking before a packed audience at Dordt College Saturday, Donald Trump said Christianity in America is under attack before pouncing on his political opponents.
“I’m a true believer; is everyone a true believer in this room?” Trump asked to a packed, loud crowd inside the B.J. Haan Auditorium.
“Christianity is under siege,” Trump continued. “(President Barack Obama) doesn’t want to say ‘radical Islamic terror,’ like it doesn’t exist.”
Thousands turned up for the event, with more than 3,000 registering online to attend. Lines from the auditorium doors stretched across the Dordt campus, with the hall able to hold only 1,600. The rec center to the north was set up to hold 1,000 more with the speech live streamed to the building.
After his speech, Trump spent about 10 minutes talking to supporters in the rec center.
Trump mentioned his earlier comments that had drawn a firestorm of criticism — and support — when he talked about possible measures on surveying Muslims in the U.S. and temporarily halting Muslims coming into the country. He said that had he talked about a ban on Christians, he would have met less criticism.
“I would have had less difficulty,” Trump said. “As a group, as Christians, we’re becoming less powerful as a force.”
Trump then promised, if elected, department stores would be saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,” again.
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The real estate mogul moved to his political rivals — mainly former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, both of whom lag behind Trump in most national polls.
Trump said Bush had “wasted” $100 million in campaign spending and is in last place among Republican presidential hopefuls. He said the money should have been given to wounded war veterans instead, a comment that drew enormous applause from the Sioux Center crowd.
“I don’t think this guy is a smart person,” Trump said of Bush. He also mocked U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s endorsement of Bush before deriding Bush’s recent political ad featuring his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush.
“Get out there yourself. Low energy. Weak. Pathetic,” Trump said of Bush.
Outside, more than a dozen protesters held signs near the auditorium. One of the protesters, Kim Von Es, chair of the Sioux County Democrats, said a number of people in the area are concerned with comments Trump has made on immigrants, minorities, Muslims and women.
“I feel he’s really lowered the meter on what public civility is in this campaign,” Von Es said. “We want people to know there are alternatives to him and his message.”
Trump questioned Cruz’s eligibility to run for president, as he was born in Canada to American citizens. He said Cruz could run for prime minister of Canada, and that he could sue Cruz if Cruz wins the nomination.
On the strength of his poll numbers, Trump remarked how loyal his own supporters are.
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose anyone,” he said. “That’s how loyal they are.”
Trump also took several minutes to insult various people, including Glenn Beck, whom he called a stone cold loser, the staff of the National Review, the Washington Post, which he called a tax scam, Bill Kristol, the media in general and others.
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Trump finished with statements on how he would rebuild the military before departing, shaking hands with the crowd before his next scheduled appearance in Pella, Iowa. In a parting note, he implored those present to attend their caucus events Feb. 1.
“You gotta go out and do your thing. We will make America great again,” he said.