ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — In an occasionally dark and profane speech: Donald Trump On Friday, he tried to win over Republicans in California by complaining that rich people in Beverly Hills smell bad because they were denied water, repeating lies about widespread voter fraud and calling on police to arrest people shoot, rob the shops.
While many of his comments at the California Republican Party convention in Anaheim were familiar retreads of Trump’s attacks and grievances, his encouragement of violent retaliation against criminals marked an escalation of his longstanding tough-on-crime message.
“We will stop all looting and theft immediately. “It’s simple: If you rob a store, you can expect to be shot as you leave the store,” he said, drawing loud applause. “Shot!” he added for emphasis.
Trump was one of several Republican presidential candidates to appear at the event in this Democratic stronghold. While there is little hope for any of them to defeat President Joe Biden in a general election here, California will play a crucial role in the list of states being voted on March 5 in the so-called Super Tuesday primaries.
With 169 delegates at stake, a victory in California would move a Republican presidential candidate significantly closer to the nomination. And a recent rule change could give Trump, who has dominated the primaries so far, an advantage. If he receives more than 50% of the vote, he would be awarded every delegate in the state.
A voter survey by the Public Policy Institute of California released Wednesday but conducted in late August and early September found that Trump is supported by nearly half of likely Republican primary voters. DeSantis was far behind at 14%, while the rest of the field trailed in single digits.
Trump’s comments Friday underscored a central issue surrounding Trump’s efforts to return to the presidency. While his focus on red meat resonates well with the GOP base, it’s unclear whether he will have much appeal with the broader group of voters needed to win general elections.
For example, his comments on the subject of crime were particularly pointed. In the past, Trump has suggested shooting migrants to prevent them from crossing the border. In his book and in interviews, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper claimed that Trump inquired about the shooting of protesters during the George Floyd demonstrations. He has also proposed the death penalty for drug dealers, human traffickers and anyone convicted of killing a police officer.
During his first year in office, Trump recommended police be tougher on arrested suspects and urged recruits: “Please don’t be too nice.”
“The news that you are being shot will spread within minutes and our nation will one day be a very different place,” Trump said Friday. “There must be retribution for theft and destruction and the destruction of our country.”
Homicides and other violent crimes have risen in California, where residents are also bombarded with headlines about frequent car break-ins and drug use San Francisco’s troubled Tenderloin district to street racing and illegal takeovers in a new one $588 million bridge in Los Angeles.
Republicans view crime as an important issue that can help them win back some of the suburban voters who have turned away from the party since Trump became party leader and the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion. Several Republican presidential candidates and other members of the party have pointed in particular to this week’s events in Philadelphia, where Dozens of people are being prosecuted after a night of chaos on social media in which groups of thieves, apparently working together, broke into stores in several parts of the city.
Trump exploited California Republicans’ fatigue with their state’s Democratic leaders, who he said brought homelessness, open borders, high taxes, inequality, “woke tech tyrants” and rising crime to the state.
Once a symbol of American prosperity and creativity, California is becoming “a symbol of our nation’s decline,” Trump said.
“We will reverse the decline of America and end the desecration of your once great state of California,” Trump said. “This is no longer a great state. This is a landfill. You are a landfill. The world is dumped in California. Prisoners. Terrorists. Mental patients.”
Trump told his supporters, “Help is on the way,” falsely claimed that his 30-point defeats here were the result of fraud and said improbably that he would win in next year’s general election in California. He railed against the use of mail-in ballots on the same day that the Republican National Committee in New York launched its “Bank your Vote” initiative, which urges Republicans to vote before Election Day. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel dismissed Trump’s continued skepticism.
“I think we have to embrace these struggles, but also understand that on game day we have to abide by the rules that apply on the field, and President Trump is all in,” she said.
Trump was in California just two days after him bypassed the second GOP debate The event is being held at Ronald Reagan’s presidential library northwest of Los Angeles, demonstrating once again that he sees no need to appear side by side with lesser-known candidates.
At state party conventions, crowds are typically thick with conservative grassroots activists, an ideal setting for the former president even if he is charged with a crime four criminal cases.
Scott said police should get more respect and more money, but fell far short of Trump’s call for violence.
“We should respect the police, refund the police and thank God Almighty for being willing to run in when everyone else is running away,” Scott said to a significantly smaller crowd than Trump’s speech, which was apparently cut short after the crash The leader’s speech came too late.
DeSantis said people are “voting with their feet” and moving to Florida in large numbers seeking freedom from mask and vaccination mandates, low taxes and free school choice. He warned that a second Biden term would bring California politics closer to the nation.
“The California model represents a greater American decline,” DeSantis said. “The Florida model represents a path for us to reverse American decline and represents a path for us to have an American revival, and that is ultimately the choice that people must make.”
Dan Cox, an Orange County real estate agent and registered Republican, lined up to enter the ballroom for Trump’s speech. He wore a “Keep America Great” hat and red tie, signaling his support for Trump. He lamented the rising prices that have left many families in the state without homeowners.
“I’m voting for someone who can do the job,” he said, adding that he doesn’t trust Biden.
Not surprisingly, a few Democrats protested near the convention site.
“When the leading candidate of a major political party is impeached for attempting to overturn a free and fair election, every voter needs to stop and think about where our country is headed,” said Kristin Washington, chair of the San Bernardino County Democratic Party, in a statement. “The last thing any American needs is to relive this madness.”