Thousands of MAGA supporters have been tailgating for more than a day, waiting for President Trump to stage a large Monday night rally in Houston, Ted Cruz’s hometown, to help the Texas senator and his 2016 presidential rival fend off a tough challenge from Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
“I’m here to support my president,” Lisa Brewer, 55, a logistics-company worker who was the first in line, outside the Toyota Center, which seats roughly 19,000, told The New York Times. “He talks to the people.”
Brewer waited more than 32 hours, and she surely wasn’t alone.
“Everybody says, ‘Well, how could you support somebody like Trump? He tweets bad things.’ And I don’t like all of the tweets he makes,” realtor Linda Van Bebber, 64, told The Houston Chronicle. “But if you look at the bottom line, it’s a lot about him being tough on certain issues.”
With the midterm elections fast approaching, Democrats are trying to flip nearly two dozen House seats to regain control of that chamber. Republicans are trying to maintain a slim Senate majority and defend several governors’ mansions.
Houston’s police Chief Art Acevedo said that 70,000 people signed up for tickets to the rally in recent days, according to the Times.
The president said he now gets along “very well” with Cruz after their 2016 primary feud. Trump offered more complimentary nicknames for Cruz — “I call him Texas Ted” — and told reporters he has replaced his “Lyin’ Ted” putdown with “Beautiful Ted.”
“When they punch, [Trump] punches back. We love that about him,” Jen Salinas, the Texas director of “Latinos for Trump,” told The Chronicle. “He stands his ground, he stands up for himself, he stands up for us when we don’t have a voice. You know, Trump’s our voice.”
Thomas Rodriguez told KTRK: “Hopefully, I can get close enough to take a selfie with him.”
Texas added 1.6-plus million registered voters since 2014’s midterm elections, with young voters helping to power that surge. But Austin Republican analyst Derek Ryan noted that four years ago, only about 14 percent of the newly registered voters under 20 wound up casting ballots.
The vote may be decided by older Texans who know how to show up to the polls.
“The perception you see is, ‘All women hate Trump. He’s a sexist. He’s a racist,’” Polly Holmes, 50, a stay-at-home mother from Cypress, Texas, told The Times. “I totally don’t feel that at all.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.