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Trump, Haley rally in Virginia ahead of Super Tuesday

Scott Elmquist
VPM News
Former President Donald Trump appears at a March 2 rally in Richmond. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who's competing with Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, also held a rally in the area in March.

Biden competes with former U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips for his party’s nomination.

Days after former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley visited the region, and just ahead of Super Tuesday’s presidential primary elections, former President Donald Trump held a rally on Saturday in Richmond.

Roughly 3,000 people came from across the state — some driving from outside the commonwealth — to hear the former president speak.

“This will be my 73rd Trump rally,” said 64-year-old Edward X. Young, who traveled to Richmond from Point Pleasant, New Jersey. “The GPS said it would only take about five and a half hours. It was not. It was raining the whole time. So, a five-and-a-half-hour trip took me less than nine hours. I drove all night. I took a couple of naps.”

Hours before the doors opened at 3 p.m., hundreds of people snaked around the Greater Richmond Convention Center, many wearing or buying Trump paraphernalia. A few times throughout the morning, a van with an electronic message board touting Haley drove around the block.

One of those waiting was David English, 59, who drove in from Beaverdam in Hanover County. He said it would be his first time inside a Trump rally — and that he hoped Trump could fix “literally everything … .”

Scott Elmquist
VPM News
State Sen. John McGuire speaks March 2 at a rally for former President Donald Trump at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

Another first-time rally goer, Sharon Roberts, took the day off from work and drove more than two hours from Chesapeake to get in line outside the convention center by 9 a.m. She said it’s because of the memory of her late son that she wants the borders closed — and why she came to the event.

She wore a button with a depiction of her son’s face.

“This is my son right here, Sean. He died in 2018,” Roberts said. “He took a big Xanax. It was laced with fentanyl and heroin, and he died instantly. I want Trump to close the border. He's the only one that can get this job done.”

After a few guest speakers, including state Sen. John McGuire and one-time presidential hopeful and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, the 2024 Republican presidential front-runner took the stage.

“Hello, Richmond. I'm thrilled to be back in beautiful Virginia. We love Virginia, how much, we're gonna make a big play for Virginia, you know that,” Trump said to a standing crowd, cell phones held high to capture the moment. “I think we can win Virginia, we win it 100%. It's over. ”

During his almost two-hour speech, the former president touched on many of the themes from past campaign events: falsehoods about the 2020 election and his four criminal indictments, which total 91 felony counts, according to The Associated Press.

“One time, two times, three times — I got four indictments. More than Al Capone, the most vicious mobster in history,” Trump said.

If re-elected, the former president said he would end funding for schools that require student vaccinations.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, parents or guardians need to show proof of vaccinations before attending schools, nurseries or daycares. Those vaccinations include shots for measles, polio or chicken pox.

Responding to that remark, former Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock posted on X, that like many states, Virginia requires students to be vaccinated, and if Trump gets elected, schools could lose out on millions of dollars in federal funding.

Scott Elmquist
VPM News
Thousands gather March 2 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center to hear former President Donald Trump speak.

But Trump spent the bulk of his time in Richmond focused on immigration.

“Among my very first actions upon taking office will be quite simply to seal the border. To stop the invasion of our country,” Trump said. “Our border is an open and gushing wound, pouring drugs, gangs, terrorists and millions of illegal aliens into our country — many, many people that are not supposed to be in our country.”

Near the end of his speech, the former president said: “And I will secure our elections. Our goal will be, one day, voting with paper ballots and voter ID.”

Before leaving the stage, he quoted Virginian Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech and then, with American flags waving on two screens behind him, he read off a list of issues he sees as harmful to the country. For about six minutes, he railed against the Green New Deal and the deep state, before walking off to applause.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that states don't have the ability to bar Trump — or any other federal candidate — from the ballot under a rarely-used constitutional provision that prohibits those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.

Polls for the Super Tuesday presidential primary are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For voting information, visit Richmond’s Office of Elections website, your local registrar or the Virginia Department of Elections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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