In his trademark free-association style, Donald Trump riffed for a little less than an hour on Colorado’s “rigged” caucus and convention process, free trade, the Iran deal, terrorism, immigration and jobs.
Everything was tremendous and amazing.
LOOK: Live blog of the day’s events, including protests, clashes and more speakers
Underlying it all: America is going to win again, and win big, but only if he’s elected president.
Trump ultimately drew a standing ovation at the Western Conservative Summit, the largest gathering of conservatives outside of Washington, D.C., from a crowd that included many people who would have preferred a different candidate.
But the largest ballroom at the Colorado Convention Center was somewhere between half and two-thirds full and many local Republican politicians were absent. Word on the street was that Darryl Glenn, the Republican Senate candidate, was going to introduce Sarah Palin, who spoke before Trump, but Glenn did not appear on stage at any point in the program.
A Trump pin on his lapel, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve House gave the introduction, but not before a long lag between Palin’s speech and Trump’s arrival.
“These lights are so bright I can hardly see who is out there,” Trump said, squinting into the crowd as he took the stage. “Oh, that’s a good crowd.”
Trump appears here amid turmoil in his campaign, as two top staffers who had only recently been hired quit, and as he tries to develop an organization in battleground states like Colorado. After his speech, he headed to a $10,000-per-couple fundraiser put on by beer executive Pete Coors and former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.
Trump started off talking about the “rigged” system in Colorado that led to his rival Ted Cruz winning all the state’s delegates at the state convention. This is rhetoric that hasn’t always sat well with Colorado Republicans — at least not the ones who participated in that system.
But when Trump talked about the need to be tough on ISIS and tough abroad and what he perceives as the fundamental weakness of his Democratic opponent, he clearly touched a nerve in the crowd, which was on its feet cheering.
“The only thing they understand is strength and toughness,” he said. “And we’re weak. We’re weak. And Hillary Clinton is as weak as you get. Hillary is a weak person. She is a weak person. They will not understand Hillary. They want her in so badly.”
Here is Trump, in his own words:
On his own win: “The primaries, one after the other. Bing. Bing. I’m just the messenger. I’m a good messenger, but it’s what I’m saying about what’s going on.”
On refugees: “We’re allowing people to come into our country from Syria and other countries. We have no idea who they are. They have no paperwork. They have no documentation. They could be ISIS. I used to say they are probably not, but now I say that many of them are probably are.”
The solution: “I have as big a heart as anybody in this room. We are going to create safe zones in Syria. We are going to get the Gulf States to pay. Nobody has asked them to pay. Trump is going to ask them to pay.”
On rising health care costs: “Unless a really, really severe long-term death, you’re not going to use it because your deductibles are so high. The deductibles are through the roof They’re paying more but they don’t get to use it. We are going to repeal and replace Obamacare and replace it with something so much better and so much less expensive.”
On taxes: “We’re going to have massive tax reform and simplification, the biggest of anybody.”
On the “most brutal campaign in the history of this country”: “We started off with 17 people and there were a lot of bad things that were said and one person came out. I understand. They were really nasty to me. I was really nasty to them, and some of them just cannot understand the importance of a victory for the Republicans.”
On the Supreme Court: “We are going to appoint at least three justices. You had Scalia, and he was great, and who saw that was coming. You have that one before you start. And you probably have two more so you could have three. You could even have four more. You could have a lot. You could have a record for the history of this country. You could have five. You probably will have three.”
“And that’s the difference between having a country that is a great country and having Venezuela.”
(Venezuela is suffering through widespread food shortages, crime and vigilantism.)
(And the record is actually held by George Washington, who appointed 11 justices, followed by Franklin Roosevelt, who appointed nine justices.)
On the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which he said Clinton only opposes because he did first: “She is going to approve it in two seconds if she won, and that is going to be as bad or worse than NAFTA, which, by the way, was signed by her husband.”
On his win again: “In the history of the Republican party — with 17 candidates — I had the most votes of anybody that has ever run. 37 states. Next time it’s going to be Colorado. Colorado is not in that 37. Don’t worry. If you were, I would still be here. More than anybody. Almost 14 million votes. More than Ronald Reagan, who we love. You have the Bushes, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, so much more than anybody else. When you break that record and you are running against 17 very capable people, that is amazing. I am very honored.”
On terrorism: “We are going to be so tough. We are going to have people turning people in when they see something. Like in San Bernadino, they saw bombs all over those people’s floors. … They talked about racial profiling. We didn’t want to turn them in because of racial profiling. Give me a break. People need to turn people in, and if they don’t, we’re going to have so many of these things.”
On crime and immigration: “We are going to cut down on the incredible crime that is pouring across our borders. … We are going to have a country where you are safe to walk around, where you are safe to walk the streets.”
On what’s at stake: “You’re going to have job loss like you wouldn’t believe if I don’t win.”
On the idea that Bill Clinton talked to Attorney General Loretta Lynch about golf and his grandkids: “If you think he just happened to be at the airport … he’s talking about golf and grandchildren. I love my grandchildren so much. But if I talk about them for more than five or 10 seconds, I’m bored. I love that one and that one and that one. Look at those beautiful kids. After that? What?”
On Mexico: “We’re going to have lots of trade with Mexico. We’re going to have great things happening with Mexico. Mexico does not like us very much right now.”
On Iran: “The Persians are great negotiators. (Secretary of State John) Kerry never got up and left. If Kerry got up and left, they would have been back in two days.”
On a Turkish journalist in the crowd: “I think he’s friend. Are you friend or foe? He looks like friend. I have investments in Turkey. I have investments a lot of places. Turkey should be fighting ISIS … Turkey could wipe ISIS out by themselves. I would love to see that.”
On ISIS: “We’re not allowed to waterboard, right? We can’t waterboard. They’re allowed to chop off heads. They’re allowed to drown people … They think we are so stupid. They think we are so weak. They have no respect for us whatsoever. And remember this: The only thing they understand is strength. They don’t understand kindness. They don’t understand political correctness. The only thing they understand is strength and toughness. And we’re weak. We’re weak. And Hillary Clinton is as weak as you get. Hillary is a weak person. She is a weak person. They will not understand Hillary. They want her in so badly. The last person they want to see become president of the United States, believe me, is Donald Trump. I can tell you that. They have dreams at night, and their dreams are that Hillary Clinton becomes president of our country.”
This is the moment that has the crowd on its feet:
On what he’ll do for the country and Colorado: “We’re going to win so much that the people of Colorado will say, we are sick of winning, we can’t stand it anymore. They are going to call me up in the White House and say, Mr. President, stop, we can’t stand to win this much.”
“I love you folks. Now get out and vote.”