LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Republican frontrunner Donald Trump addressed a capacity crowd at the South Point Arena on Monday, urging them to remember to vote at Tuesday’s caucuses, warning that his lead in the polls would not guarantee a win.
Referring to claims that the rally was among the largest political gatherings in the history of Nevada politics, Trump said: “Setting records like this is important. But tomorrow, you have to go out and vote.”
The raucous crowd, estimated by the campaign at 8,000 supporters — and at 10,000 by security officials who spoke to Breitbart News — also included several hecklers, who have become part of the show at Trump’s campaign events.
One man stood behind the podium and unfurled a large banner, reading: “VETERANS TO MR. TRUMP: END HATE SPEECH AGAINST MUSLIMS.” He was led away without much resistance–but he just was the first of many.
— Joel Pollak (@joelpollak) February 23, 2016
After the third interruption, as a red-faced, barrel-chested man was led away by security, Trump lamented that people were no longer allowed to punch back.
“I miss the old days … You know what they used to do to guys like that in a place like this? They’d be carried out in a stretcher, folks. Here’s a guy, throwing punches … I’d like to punch him in the face.”
Trump reviewed his poll numbers and attendance numbers, contrasting them favorably with those of his rivals, notably Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), whom Trump said received much more favorable press for far smaller crowds.
He also attacked rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), reiterating his charge that Cruz is the “biggest liar” — though he said that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was a “nice guy.” The audience booed both opponents, enthusiastically.
Trump also revisited his argument with Pope Francis, which he had tempered slightly in the wake of last week’s media frenzy about their disagreement about immigration policy.
“I’ve seen the Vatican,” Trump said. “That’s the biggest, strongest wall I’ve ever seen … In fact, I want to use that as my model.”
Trump is widely expected to win the Nevada caucuses, where he has led recent polls by at least 16 and as many as 26 percentage points. Cruz and Rubio are locked in a battle for second place. Dr. Ben Carson is also campaigning in the Silver State, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich has chosen to stay on the East Coast, sensing dim prospects here.