Speaking to a record crowd at the Civic Center of Anderson, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump vowed Monday to reverse what he called the nation’s decline.
“The American dream is dead but we are going to make it bigger and better and stronger than ever before,” Trump said.
Trump compared the United States to “a big bully that gets beat up.”
“We are losing to everybody,” he said.
Trump said that trend will change if he is elected as president.
“You are going to have victories coming out your ears,” said the Manhattan real estate tycoon, prompting the crowd to chant “Trump, Trump, Trump.”
A county official said 5,400 people were at the speech, though Trump tweeted that the official count was 7,943 — almost 2,000 more than the limit set by the county fire marshal. Monday was the first time that more than 5,000 had attended an event at the 25-year-old Civic Center.
“We have crowds like this everywhere,” Trump said. “It’s not me. It’s the message.”
He added, “People that come to my rallies are the smartest people.”
Trump paused his remarks after a woman in the audience fainted. He asked if she was all right.
“She’s so excited,” he quipped.
A police officer carried the woman out. She did not require medical attention.
Trump mentioned few specific policy proposals during his speech. He said he will strengthen the military, improve care for veterans and crack down on illegal immigration.
“Our vets are being treated in many cases not as well as illegal immigrants,” Trump said.
He also said he lower taxes for the middle class.
“We are going to bring our jobs back,” he said. “We are going to make our own stuff.”
In addition to preserving Social Security and protecting Medicare, Trump said he will “terminate Obamacare” a pledge that drew loud applause.
Unlike other candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Trump said, he is not relying on campaign donations.
“I don’t want anybody’s money,” he said. “I am not selling myself to special interests or insurance companies or lobbyists.”
People began lining up outside at the Civic Center about 4 p.m. Monday. Many of them waited up to 30 minutes to get in the building. Vendors moved through the crowd, selling Trump T-shirts and badges.
Trump’s Lear jet landed at Anderson Regional Airport shortly after 5 p.m. The 757 dubbed Trump Force One that he normally uses is too large to land at the Anderson airport.
Shortly after taking the stage, Trump praised the undefeated Clemson University football team, which elicited a roar of approval from the audience.
He then spent several minutes ticking off the polls that he is leading, including a national survey that The Wall Street Journal and NBC News released Monday and last week’s CNN poll of South Carolina voters.
Trump also criticized several of his rivals in the race for the White House, including Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina.
“He has been so nasty,” Trump said.
He mocked U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida.
“I never saw a young guy sweat so much,” Trump said.
The loudest boos were heard when he mentioned Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president.
“I don’t think you like her too much,” Trump said.
Trump complained that he has been a victim of unfair news coverage, saying there is “unbelievable dishonesty in the media.”
He said his supporters are eager for change.
“People are tired of what’s going on and they’re tired of what’s happening to our country,” he said.
Near the end of his hour-long speech, Trump said he has been scolded by critics for brash comments.
“It is time that we have a tough tone,” he said as the crowd cheered.
“I am a nice person, believe it or not,” Trump said. “I love people — that is why I’m doing thing. I could be doing other things.”
Independent Mail reporter Nikie Mayo contributed to this report.
Follow Kirk Brown on Twitter @KirkBrown_AIM