Jackson, Miss., was the political epicenter of America for about an hour Wednesday night as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and a who’s who of state and national politics rallied support for Trump’s bid.
Trump touched a range of topics, from race to immigration to his challenger, Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Trump harshly criticized Clinton, a former secretary of state and U.S. senator at times. He called her “a bigot,” for what he called taking the votes of people of color for granted, and he said she “has betrayed her duty to our people,” referring to Americans
Sticking to a recently renewed effort to appeal to African American and Hispanic voters, Trump spent much of his speech in Jackson discussing race.
“The Democratic party has failed and betrayed the African American community,” Trump told the crowd. “It’s time to give the Democrats some competition for African American votes and for Hispanic votes. If you keep voting for the same people, you’ll keep getting the same results.”
Trump interrupted his own speech to introduce Nigel Farage, who led an effort to withdraw the U.K. from the European Union. Farage, who received subdued applause when he was introduced, drew parallels between Brexit and Trump’s goal of “redeclaring American independence on Nov. 8,” the presidential candidate said, referring to election day. By the end of Farage’s three or four-minute speech, the crowd was raucous once again.
“If I was an American citizen, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me,” Farage said, garnering booming cheers from the audience. “Anything is possible if enough American people stand up against the establishment.”
Trump’s stance on immigration has been a hallmark of his campaign and dominated news cycles the past couple weeks as pundits and even the candidate himself suggested his proposed immigration policies “are softening.” In his speech in Jackson, Trump highlighted three focus areas for his immigration policy: jobs, wages and security for Americans.
The candidate took aim at Clinton’s immigration policy, calling it a “radical immigration plan” that would “lower wages and kill jobs for lawful American residents.”
“I want to bring people here who share our values, love our people, and are capable of loving America,” Trump said. “Any immigration plan I endorse must improve jobs and wages for American citizens… It must improve the safety and security for US citizens. Third, it must improve the quality of life for US citizens.”
A number of Mississippi and national Republican officials attended the rally.
Gov. Phil Bryant, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani introduced Trump to the stage at the Mississippi Coliseum. U.S. Reps. Gregg Harper and Trent Kelly stood behind the candidate’s podium. State Treasurer Lynn Fitch and Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith also had front-row seats for Trump.
After the speech, Bobby Moak, chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, criticized state officials for appearing with Trump, whose record he said includes disparaging women, minorities and military families.
“As if Mississippi’s Republican leadership’s own poor record of job losses, increased government spending, high unemployment, and a lowered economic outlook coupled with a budget mess they do not have the political courage to solve, this same group couldn’t wait to welcome a very special guest that helped usher in the same for our British cousins,” Moak said through a statement.
Trump mentioned Mississippi five times in his remarks, including a nod to the state’s jobless rates, one of the worst in the nation.
“We are going to bring back jobs to Mississippi,” he said.
State officials told Mississippi Today the purpose of Trump’s visit originally was to hold a fundraiser, but later added the rally at the Coliseum. Even with short notice, approximately 4,000-5,000 attended the event, which lasted just over an hour.
“They put together the fundraiser first, and then tacked on the rally afterwards,” Perry said. “The campaign said, ‘We’ve got him here for another hour, what can we do with him?’ Doing the fundraiser isn’t unusual. The idea made sense. There’s not a lot of money to raise here, but they’ll raise it.”
As Trump exited the building to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” by the Rolling Stones, attendees flooded out of the Coliseum happy to witness the event and the November election.
“I am really encouraged by his optimism and his wanting us to get back to our principles,” said Richland resident Patricia Cuatt.