Thousands of supporters gathered outside of a hangar at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville to hear President Donald Trump speak Thursday night.
During his hour-long speech, Trump criticized Democratic opponent Joe Biden for standing with “socialists and communists” and praised Florida’s Republican leaders, including Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.
“I want to thank you,” Trump said to the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. “Forty days from now we’re going to win Florida.”
Earlier this week, Trump confirmed that he would be making his Supreme Court Justice nomination on Saturday following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“This will be a very talented person. It will be a woman,” Trump said Thursday.
The president also called out Biden for not supplying his own list of potential Supreme Court Justice candidates.
“My opponent refuses to release his lists of potential justices because they will be handpicked by extremists,” such as New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Trump said.
And arguing that a Biden presidency would put the economy into another shut down, Trump commended Gov. Ron DeSantis for doing a “great job” handling the coronavirus pandemic in the state and promised that his November election victory would see a revitalization of the state’s tourism and hospitality industries.
With Trump and DeSantis in office, Florida’s unemployment rate is 7.4%, and nearly 13,800 in the state people have died of coronavirus since March. Around 693,000 Floridians have contracted the virus.
“Next year will be one of the greatest years we are going to have, I'm telling you. Mark it down,” he said.
Trump was supposed to travel to Jacksonville at the end of August, but those plans were scrapped amid rising coronavirus infection numbers at the time.
“We wanted to have our Republican National Convention right here in Jacksonville, but the timing was a little bit bad,” Trump said. “We got hit a little bit with COVID as they say. We got hit a little bit with the ‘China virus.’ But I'll tell you what, Lenny Curry was absolutely fantastic.”
Social distancing and mask wearing were encouraged at the rally, according to the event registration. However, the majority of people at the event chose not to wear masks as they stood shoulder to shoulder for the speeches.
The event registration form stated that the campaign and event venue were not liable for anyone who is potentially exposed to COVID-19 at the rally.
Throughout the evening, Trump hit on several of his favorite rally talking points, including support for law enforcement, distrust of the “fake news” media, and a need to stop the “radical left” from confiscating firearms, removing God from the Pledge of Allegiance, raising taxes and allowing illegal immigration to overtake the country.
While Trump was talking, security removed a few protesters from the venue, including two women wearing “Black Lives Matter” shirts.
Trump said he couldn’t make out what they yelled at him.
“I didn’t hear anything except our crowd,” Trump said. “They have no voice, screaming at the top of their lungs, but their lungs are very small.”
Prior to the president’s arrival, Curry, DeSantis and other state Republican political leaders spoke to the crowd, endorsing Trump and his accomplishments.
Although Trump didn’t begin speaking until 7 p.m., hundreds were already waiting in line to get into the venue by mid-day Thursday.
Vendors lined the streets outside the airport, selling “Trump 2020” clothes, flags and other merchandise.
One of them, Paul Shaver, was pressing pennies with “Trump 2020” logos. Shaver said he will be voting for the first time in November.
“I'm a convicted felon,” Shaver said. “I have paid all my dues, worked very hard to make sure I can vote for this, and it did not take a dime of Bloomberg money. Not a dime of it.”
Recently, former New York City Mayor, presidential candidate and billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg donated and raised a total of more than $16 million to pay court fines and fees for felons in Florida so they can register to vote.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is asking the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the donations.
Shaver said he didn’t become a fan of Trump until he felt the need to defend him against being called a racist.
“Everybody will think that one thing and think it's true and act off of those feelings,” Shaver said. “That kind of threw me off and didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth.”
The president will remain in the Sunshine State Friday, when he is expected to hold a “Latinos For Trump” roundtable in Miami.
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.