A boisterous crowd filled the gymnasium at Parkway West High on Saturday, March 12, and cheered conservative presidential candidate Ted Cruz as he hurled verbal barbs at Donald Trump, his opponent in the GOP primaries, as well the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic Party contender for the presidential nomination.
Cruz contended the GOP race effectively has turned into a two-man contest between Trump and himself and implored supporters of other Republican candidates to vote for him in order to halt a Trump nomination.
The standing-room-only turnout interrupted Cruz’s comments frequently with cheers and applause as they waved placards emblazoned with the candidate’s TRUS-TED campaign slogan.
Cruz predicted the November election will focus on three issues – jobs, freedom and security.
Among other things, Cruz said he wants “to lift the burden of government off the backs” of small business so that the economy can grow. He also pledged to abolish Obamacare, to call for passage of a flat tax, to dismantle the IRS and “the alphabet soup of [other] federal agencies,” and to protect the nation’s borders and end welfare payments to illegal immigrants.
In addition, Cruz contended the nation is “one liberal supreme court justice away” from having religious liberties, Second Amendment rights and other freedoms eroded.
On the issue of security, the conservative Texas senator said that if he is elected president, the U.S. “will stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel” and will do the same thing to radical Islamic militants that President Reagan did in winning the Cold War against Russia. Further, he promised not to put the nation’s military in a position of having to “fight with one arm tied behind its back.”
Cruz reflected that it took the [Jimmy] Carter Administration “to give us Ronald Reagan” and predicted that the Obama Administration years will yield a new generation of American leadership committed to returning the nation to conservative leadership and values.
The GOP candidate wasn’t the only one taking shots at the opposition party and at Trump during the rally. Carly Fiorina, an early candidate in the GOP nomination race who since has withdrawn and recently endorsed Cruz’s candidacy, also spoke at the rally.
In comments before introducing Cruz, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO declared the current political “system isn’t working and needs someone who is going to challenge that system. Trump “isn’t going to change the system. He needs the system,” she stated.
Rep. Ann Wagner of Ballwin, who earlier this week endorsed Cruz’s candidacy, told the crowd the nation’s next president must be “a principled conservative…who shares our values…and will shake up Washington.”
David Limbaugh, an attorney, author and brother of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, joined the anti-Trump bandwagon, noting: “We know he (Trump) has always wanted to be president (but) “we’re not sure why.” He accused Trump of “buying political influence” all his life.
Others speaking during the rally were Missouri Senators Eric Schmitt [R-Glendale] and Bob Onder [R-Lake Saint Louis] and Pastor Stoney Shaw from the First Baptist Church of Ferguson.
Mark Harder, a member of the St. Louis County Council representing West County and active in Republican politics, said feedback from the Cruz campaign organization and others was unanimous in describing the rally as “a huge success.”
Crowd estimates ranged from 3,000 to 5,000, based on Cruz’s own assessment during his remarks and the number of those requesting tickets and others signing in at the door.
The high school location was picked because it offered a facility with the best combination of a large seating capacity and parking accommodations. The Cruz campaign paid for the school district for usage and set-up fees, Harder said. He added the campaign stop was arranged with just over two days notice and the help of more than 70 volunteers.
The size and interest of the audience attending the rally held were apparent when the line to get into the event began forming at 6:40 a.m., more than three hours before the scheduled starting time.
Among those first in line were Wildwood resident Hank Hicks, 27, and Evan McDaniel, 18, who drove some 50 miles from his Waterloo, Illinois, home to attend the event.
Hicks said he has followed Cruz’s political career for some time and supported him as a presidential candidate even before the Texas senator announced he would seek the GOP nomination.
“I think it’s important to show that young people support other candidates, too,” he said, an apparent reference to Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders appeal to younger voters. “We live in the greatest country in the world and are able to participate in selecting our leaders simply by attending an event like this and then voting,” he added.
For McDaniel, the upcoming primary and general elections will be the first time he has voted.
“I like Cruz,” he said. “I’m here to learn more about him before I vote.”
By the time the doors to the Parkway West gym opened at about 9:10 a.m., the line of attendees stretched more than 200 yards down a sidewalk leading to an auxiliary parking area near the main entrance off Clayton Road.
The starting time was delayed some 15 minutes as the growing crowd continued to file in, filling the folding chairs set up on the gym floor and the bleachers on both sides. With all the seats occupied, later arrivals occupied empty areas between the bleachers and floor seats and remained standing throughout the hour-and-a-half rally.
Television photographers and news crews filled a raised platform between the gym floor chairs and the bleachers.
Making the most of the turnout was a small refreshment stand operated by a Parkway West parents group. With everything from bottled water and coffee to bananas, pretzels, hot dogs and other munchies available, the operation reported a brisk business during the event.
A similar set-up near the entrance door selling Cruz campaign t-shirts, buttons and other items also said sales had been good.
Cruz supporters distributed free campaign placards and stickers at the gym entrance.
Numerous Chesterfield police department vehicles were clearly visible at the school, but uniformed and plainclothes officers easily blended into the crowd both inside and outside the gymnasium. A department spokesman reported no disturbances or arrests during the rally.