Donald Trump made his presidential campaign debut Friday in Colorado, predicting “a tremendous victory” here in November even as he lamented the “rigged” system that cost him delegates in the state’s Republican caucus.

Trump opened his rambling 50-minute speech addressing the elephant in the room: his blistering attack on the state’s Republican Party’s delegate selection process. But he didn’t retreat from his criticism, referencing his loss in Colorado as many as four times.

“It’s alright,” he told a half empty ballroom at the Denver Convention Center. “It worked out. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Here we are.”

The bad blood is just one reason why Colorado is Trump’s nemesis and the visit is the first step toward easing tensions in a key battleground state. A handful of Colorado delegates are leading the effort to beat him at the Republican National Convention later this month. But party leaders are seeking to quell the controversy, as evidenced by his introduction from Steve House, the Colorado GOP chairman.

Earlier in the day, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin eviscerated the “never Trump” crowd plotting against the billionaire businessman. “I just call them Republicans Against Trump, or RAT for short,” she said to big applause.

“At such a time as this you cannot be lukewarm,” she added. “We are taking our country back and you are either with us or against us.”

The summit offered Colorado conservatives their first look at Trump after he snubbed the state this primary season. More than 4,000 people are expected to attend the three-day Western Conservative Summit at the Convention Center in Denver, a production of a Centennial Institute think tank housed at Colorado Christian University.

Trump spoke about how he has attracted large crowds at rallies across the country, but hundreds of chairs were empty in the large hall.

In an effort to appeal to Colorado, Trump touted his endorsement from the National Rifle Association and suggested Colorado and the NRA are “synonymous.” And he celebrated his ties to top evangelical Christian leaders, another blunt appeal to the crowd and a significant portion of the Republican activists in the state.

Elsewhere in the remarks, Trump touched on familiar campaign themes, including trade deals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

    Protesters during Donald Trump's campaign stop in Denver Friday, July 1, 2016. (Michael Reaves, The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01: Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate headlines the 2016 Western Conservative Summit at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01: Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate headlines the 2016 Western Conservative Summit at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01: Dede Laugesen takes a photo of Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, as he walks on stage during the 2016 Western Conservative Summit at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01: Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate headlines the 2016 Western Conservative Summit at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

    Protesters during Donald Trump's campaign stop in Denver Friday, July 1, 2016. (Michael Reaves, The Denver Post)

  • Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

    Protesters during Donald Trump's campaign stop in Denver Friday, July 1, 2016. (Michael Reaves, The Denver Post)

  • Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

    Police patrol during Donald Trump's campaign stop in Denver Friday, July 1, 2016. (Michael Reaves, The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01 Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks during the 2016 Western Conservative the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01 Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks during the 2016 Western Conservative Summit the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01: Secret service looks over the stage as Sarah Palin speaks the 2016 Western Conservative Summit the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01 Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks during the 2016 Western Conservative Summit the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01: A man wears his red, white, and blue socks the 2016 Western Conservative Summit the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01 Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks during the 2016 Western Conservative Summit the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01 Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks during the 2016 Western Conservative Summit the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01: Crystal Gallimore, of Fort Collins, waits to see Donald J. Trump and Sarah Palin during the 2016 Western Conservative Summit the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

    Donald Trump protesters during the Trump campaign stop in Denver Friday, July 1, 2016. (Michael Reaves, The Denver Post)

  • Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    Progress Now Colorado building "tearing down walls of hate" anti-trump wall Friday, July 1, 2016. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

  • Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

    Donald Trump hats during the Trump campaign stop in Denver Friday, July 1, 2016. (Michael Reaves, The Denver Post)

  • Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    Progress Now Colorado building "tearing down walls of hate" anti-trump wall Friday, July 1, 2016. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

  • Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

    Donald Trump pins during the Trump campaign stop in Denver Friday, July 1, 2016. (Michael Reaves, The Denver Post)

  • Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

    Donald Trump protesters during the Trump campaign stop in Denver Friday, July 1, 2016. (Michael Reaves, The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01: Kaitlyn Wender stands in front of the Western Conservative Summit sign as she arrive to see Donald J. Trump and Sarah Palin at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01: Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will headline the 2016 Western Conservative Summit the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01: Carl and Beth Nagy, from Arvada arrive early to see Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin at the 2016 Western Conservative Western the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    DENVER, CO - JULY 01: Anna Heintzelman waits to see Donald J. Trump during the 2016 Western Conservative Summit the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, July 01, 2016. It is the 7th annual Western Conservative Summit. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

Despite his inattention to the state so far, he said the road to the White House rolls through Colorado.

“We do have to win Colorado,” he said. “I will be back a lot, don’t worry about it. I will be back a lot.”

Trump also took a shot at former President Bill Clinton, who spoke with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at an airport meeting amid the investigation into his wife’s personal e-mail account.

“He really opened up a Pandora’s Box, and it shows what’s going on and what’s happening with our laws and our government,” Trump said, scoffing at Lynch statements that the two merely talked about grandchildren and golf.

Trump finished his speech just after noon and departed for a big-dollar fundraiser at the home of former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.

However, the summit is not a natural one for Trump, as its seats are generally filled by conservative firebrands and evangelical Republicans. The agenda for the event features Trump adversaries like Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, among others.

“The summit is recognized as the national forum for open dialogue that celebrates conservative values, freedom and virtue as the elements most critical to the preservation of the U.S. Constitution and for the United States to thrive,” said Jeff Hunt, the director of the Centennial Institute.

Trump is the first presumptive presidential candidate to attend the event, which in prior years drew the likes of Ben Carson, Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz.



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