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The Trump insurgency lands in Washington: DC rally illustrates anger within GOP

WASHINGTON — From his spot in a camping chair on the lawn of Capitol Hill, Blair Owens stares at the famous domed building that produces so much of his frustration.

"I'm not angry," the retired mechanic and Vietnam veteran said Wednesday, seated near the U.S. Congress.

"I'm mad as hell."

He's mad at the liberals he accuses of bloating government and weakening national security, and he's mad at what he sees as their Republican enablers.

Up on a stage nearby, two politicians channel his rage. They're both presidential candidates, and darlings of the mighty anti-establishment movement now upending the Republican primary race.

Donald Trump is up there hitting all the notes in his campaign repertoire — Americans have gotten a raw deal, their leaders are weak, and the people have been sold out by this kowtowing to foreigners.

Today's topic is Iran.

Trump is addressing a Tea Party rally, organized by opponents of the deal that would loosen economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for a drawdown in nuclear activity and some inspections.

"They rip us off, they take our money, they make us look like fools, now they go back to being who they really are," Trump says of the ayatollahs.

"We are led by very, very stupid people. Very, very stupid people."

Basic math illustrates why Trump was invited to this rally by the original headliner — a rival presidential candidate, willing to share the stage with a competitor.

Sen. Ted Cruz is cosying up to Trump while most other candidates either try to ignore him or attack him in the hope of extricating themselves from obscurity to earn a few desperately needed headlines.

A new poll shows that two-thirds of Republican voters want a nominee from outside government — which explains not only Trump's success, and that of neurosurgeon Ben Carson, but also why a rival like Cruz might benefit from an alliance.

And Cruz is indeed inching up the ladder, according to the same pollsters at Monmouth University. He's listed at the favourite No. 2 choice, going from seven per cent to 13 per cent in a single month.

Owens is just the kind of voter he's after.

The South Carolina man is backing Trump, and Cruz is his No. 2. He admires their willingness to fight, and refusal to back down.

What clinched his support for Trump was an incident that many political commentators wrongly diagnosed as the death of the Donald's campaign. When Trump made fun of John McCain's war record, then refused to say sorry, he loved it.

He says the current leaders of the Republican party roll over every time they face opposition, and only pay lip service to the base.

"I'm tired of being lied to," Owens said. "I'm a veteran. Tell it like it is. Don't lie to me."

Cruz was taking on the party leadership again Wednesday. He's done it on numerous occasions, like his 2013 push for a government shutdown and in his repeated willingness to fight to the finish on issues like Obamacare.

Now with all signs pointing to a Republican defeat on the Iran deal, he's demanding that party brass delay the vote.

The congressional leadership is grappling with whether to heed that call for a delay until the UN inspectors release details of arrangements with Iran.

Boos rang out when he mentioned Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, those leaders in the Senate and House.

Some signs were aimed at Democrats, and several were decidedly impolitic: "Obama/Hillary/Kerry Fulfilling Hitler's Dreams." And: "Obama. Enemy of Israel, Enemy of U.S.A."

There was even a Barack Obama plastic punching bag, showing a cartoon president with a black eye.

But the true energy of this crowd was directed at Republicans.

It could be heard in the boos. And it could be seen in signs like the one hoisted by an elderly couple: "It's Open Season On RINOs," it said, referring to the acronym for party moderates: Republicans In Name Only.

One speaker warned that an Iranian bomb would be stamped with the names McConnell and Boehner.

Those anti-leadership comments were echoed by radio host Mark Levin and David Brat, the rookie lawmaker who defeated an establishment figure in a primary.

Trump reassures the crowd that when he's in the White House, Americans will win so often they'll even get bored of it.

He swiftly corrects himself: "You never get bored with winning."

On Twitter: @alex_panetta

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

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