DALLAS — Donald Trump's raucous presidential bid turned out thousands here Monday night for a freewheeling rally that easily qualified as the biggest 2016 campaign event so far in Texas.
The billionaire businessman's remarks, which clocked in at more than an hour, covered plenty of familiar territory: his frontrunner status, his world-class deal-making skills and dogged determination to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. But he also offered some newer material, particularly in advance of his second debate Wednesday with his GOP rivals in California.
"I have a little debate coming up on Wednesday," Trump said. "I hear they're all going after me. Whatever. Whatever!"
He later offered a warning specifically for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who has cultivated a chummy relationship with Trump. Cruz "happens to be a good guy," Trump said, "but if he comes out and attacks me on Wednesday night, I'll take it back immediately."
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The American Airlines Center, which holds some 20,000 people, was well over half full by the time Trump took the stage. Earlier this summer, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent running for president as a Democrat, drew 8,000 and 5,500 people to campaign events in Dallas and Houston, respectively.
Trump's biggest applause lines came when he railed against illegal immigration, the issue that has made him a lightning rod in the presidential contest. He reiterated his vow to build a heavy-duty border wall — not the kind someone can climb over with the help of a ladder from Home Depot, he noted. And he promised to put an end to "this sanctuary cities crap," referring to cities that critics say have lax policies toward people living in the country illegally.
"You people are suffering," Trump told his crowd in Dallas while listing the consequences of illegal immigration.
It was not the only time Trump sought common ground with Texans. While ticking off states in which he's topping surveys of the GOP field, he alluded to early, scant polling in the Lone Star State that has him ahead of all his opponents.
"Have you ever heard of the great state of Texas?" Trump asked. "We're leading in Texas. How does that happen?"