DERRY, N.H. — Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump held the first town hall meeting of his campaign Wednesday, with a rowdy crowd packing a high school auditorium to enthusiastically cheer him on, shout out praises for him and holler catcalls about his rivals.
“I love these rowdy crowds,” Mr. Trump said. “These are my people.”
The auditorium of the Pinkerton Academy, a private, nonprofit high school, was packed with 890 people and more than 230 people filled the overflow room, according to the town fire marshal.
The campaign said at least 1,000 more were outside listening to the event over loudspeakers.
Mr. Trump relished the turnout, saying it eclipsed events held at the same time by some of his Republican rivals, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who led a town hall in Merrimack, New Hampshire.
The billionaire real estate tycoon said the groundswell of support for his candidacy, which pushed him to the top of the polls, was the beginning of a movement that would carry him to the White House.
“The silent majority is back,” Mr. Trump said. “The people are speaking. It’s an amazing thing. It’s like a movement.”
The crowd erupted in applause when Mr. Trump pledged to build a wall across the southern border, make better trade deals with Mexico and China, and make the U.S. military so strong that no other country would dare “mess with us.”
Mr. Trump said his experience as a builder would come in handy for constructing a wall across the southern border — a key element of this plan to stop illegal immigration.
“It will even look great,” he vowed. “Maybe some day they are going to call it the Trump Wall. It’s got to be beautiful.”
When a woman in the crowd asked him whether his “hubris” would turn off voters, Mr. Trump said that running for president took guts.
“I’m putting myself out there,” he said. “I get attacked viciously every day by the press, which is dishonest. … It takes courage to run for president.”
He repeatedly singled out Mr. Bush for abuse.
“Right down the road we have Jeb — very small crowd,” he said.
Earlier at a press conference, Mr. Trump tore into Mr. Bush for saying the U.S. needed to show it has some “skin in the game” in Iraq.
“That’s one of the dumber things I’ve heard ever in politics,” he said, adding that other “dumb statements” from Mr. Bush included saying illegal immigration was an “act of love.”
“I don’t see how he’s electable,” Mr. Trump said.