What Donald Trump’s supporters are saying at his Texas rally for Ted Cruz

Shelby Nemeth, 23, sports a Make America Great Again beanie while waiting in line to get into the rally, in Houston on Oct. 22, 2018.
Shelby Nemeth, 23, sports a Make America Great Again beanie while waiting in line to get into the rally, in Houston on Oct. 22, 2018.
Pu Ying Huang for The Texas Tribune

HOUSTON – Camped out on the streets of downtown Houston on a chilly afternoon, droves of Donald Trump supporters wore “Make America Great Again” knit winter hats as they waited to ensure a spot at the president’s campaign event for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday.

Though the president is coming to Houston to campaign for Cruz, Trump seemed to be the main attraction for thousands of people who had parked themselves in folding chairs and huddled in groups along the streets outside of the Toyota Center. Some lined up outside the 18,000-seat arena as early as Sunday morning, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Helen Conner, a 71-year-old donning a “Classy Republican” shirt, lined up in Discovery Green, a park just hundreds of feet away from the Toyota Center, Monday morning hoping for a chance to see the president speak at the event, which is set to kick off at 6:30 p.m. She drove in from Lufkin with two of her friends from elementary school.

“I’m here because the economy has grown so much under Trump,” Conner said. “And he supports women.”

While Conner said the president was the “catalyst” that brought her to the rally, she said she is “100 percent behind” Cruz.

Steps away from Conner, Steve Goodman from Boise, Idaho, pushed a cart overflowing with Trump-branded merchandise. He said it’s his 58th event selling such merchandise.

“It’s nothing but a movement,” Goodman said. “He’s got to be the greatest man this country has ever seen.”

Craig Hill, a 53-year-old from Sugar Land who camped out at 5 a.m. Monday, agreed that the rally is a movement and said that he is there to “show people that we understand what Trump is saying and support what he’s doing.”

He said that he has been a Democrat for most of his life but that he thinks the Democratic Party is “going too far to the left.” Hill, who is black, said he previously volunteered for President Barack Obama’s campaign, but he started supporting Trump because of the president’s treatment of the black community.

“Trump didn’t treat us like children,” Hill said. “He gave us some respect.”

Lodged in the red, white and blue sea of voters dressed from head to toe in Trump gear, Sara Whitaker, 42, from Marshall, wore a shirt with Gov. Greg Abbott’s name.

“I am here to support Republicans up and down the Republican ticket,” Whitaker said. “If we don’t stand up and elect conservative leaders, we are going to lose this country.”

She said she supports Abbott, Cruz and the president.

“When I say Donald, you say Trump” chants rose up from the crowd as voters took pictures with Trump cardboard cutouts and prepared to enter the arena, which was scheduled to open at 3:30 p.m.



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