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Trump returns to campaign rallies ahead of July 4

PICKENS, SOUTH CAROLINA (AP) – Former United States (US) president Donald Trump marked a return to the large-scale rallies of his previous presidential campaigns, speaking to thousands gathered in the streets of a small South Carolina city in the US on a blazing day ahead of the July 4 holiday.

“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be to kick off the Fourth of July weekend than right here on Main Street, with thousands of hardworking South Carolina patriots who believe in religion, family and country,” Trump said to a roaring crowd standing on asphalt as temperatures climbed into the 90s.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people had gathered in the streets of downtown Pickens, a small city in South Carolina’s conservative Upstate of around 3,400 residents. Law enforcement officials told some media outlets that around 15,000 people had gathered by 11am, two hours before Trump’s remarks.

The heavily Republican area is a popular one for GOP hopefuls as they aim to attract support for South Carolina’s first-in-the-South presidential primary.

In recent months, other candidates including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former vice president Mike Pence and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have all held events in the Upstate, as well as the two South Carolinians in the race: former governor Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott.

Donald Trump during his campaign rally in South Carolina, United States. PHOTO: AP

But none drew a crowd like Trump, whose appearance effectively shuttered Pickens’ quintessential southern downtown.

Contrasted with his 2016 and 2020 campaigns, which drew thousands to rallies in states across the country, Trump’s 2024 effort has been markedly different.

Earlier this year, instead of addressing voters in a gymnasium or airplane hangar, Trump held his first South Carolina campaign event inside the Statehouse in Columbia, rolling out his state leadership team at an invitation-only gathering in an ornate lobby between the House and Senate chambers.

In other states, the former president has focused his efforts on smaller events, including a series of speeches before state party organisations, as he works to bolster his standing with delegates and local officials.

This was only Trump’s second large rally of the 2024 campaign. In March, he rallied in Waco, Texas, disparaging the prosecutors then investigating him on hush-money charges – on which he was later indicted – and predicting his vindication.

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