DALLAS — Lines formed long before service started at First Baptist Church in Dallas Sunday. Devout followers of former President Donald Trump came for what was billed as a Christmas message.
Church officials said thousands attended in person or watched online, and the former president began with what he said was an off-script message discussing how he believes the country is in trouble.
“There are a lot of clouds hanging over our country right now, dark clouds,” he said. “We will come back bigger and better and stronger than ever before. I’m telling you that.”
Trump came to the church at the invitation of Pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress but was in Dallas for a nationwide tour with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly with a stop at the American Airlines Center. Seats on secondary sites were going from $45 up to $212.
Dr. Kimi King, a political science professor at the University of North Texas, sees Trump’s tour as a way to remain relevant and fundraise.
“In some ways it’s a very safe state for the President to visit,” King said. “It’s also about driving the agenda on the critical points where President Biden is in trouble and that is in terms of the debt ceiling.”
“Well I’ve never seen in person a president of our United States so that’ll be exciting,” Bob Bischoff, who came to the AAC from Austin, said.
Others said they traveled from Georgia, Nebraska and other states like Amy Lee who came from San Diego.
“I’m speaking for a lot of us that would love to see him back in office, but it all depends on the corruption in the election,” she said.
Even Jeffress, one of Trump’s biggest supporters, has said President Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 election, but Trump didn’t discuss that race or his plans for 2024 while at First Baptist.
King says even if he doesn’t run, it’s clear he wants to pick whoever the nominee is.
“He is a king maker and his endorsement in those red states like Texas and Florida.”
“If he had spoken to be about 2024, I wouldn’t be able to talk about it,” Jeffress said when asked after the service.
Trump has been to Dallas since the 2020 election. He made the trip in July for the Conservative Political Action Conference. It’s been more than a year since Trump lost the presidential election, but the crowds haven’t fully faded.