Trump holds mini-rally at Florida airport
President Trump on Friday held a scaled-down campaign-style rally on an airport tarmac in Florida, drawing a crowd of supporters who packed closely together in a state that has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The president landed in Tampa, where he is participating in a fundraiser, and was greeted by dozens of supporters who had gathered along barricades. Few were seen wearing masks, and music that has become standard at Trump campaign events blared over speakers for what was billed as a “campaign coalitions event with Florida sheriffs.”
The president, who was flanked by local law enforcement officials, painted a dystopian picture of the country should presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden win election in November.
“If Joe Biden is elected president, the chaos and bloodshed will spread to every community in our land. You’ll have a Portland everywhere,” he said, referencing clashes between protesters and federal agents deployed to Oregon.
“There will be no safety, no security, no peace, no justice, no one to protect you and no one to defend the American way of life,” Trump added. “People like the ones standing behind me will not be considered primetime. With me, they’re considered primetime.”
The president made only a fleeting mention of the coronavirus pandemic during his 30-minute remarks, even though Florida is the new epicenter of the outbreak in the United States.
Florida has reported more than 470,000 cases, the second-most of any state, according to data compiled by The New York Times. Roughly 70,000 of those cases have been reported in the last seven days, and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a staunch Trump ally, has been forced to roll back some business reopenings to try and contain the virus.
Friday’s event in Florida was outdoors, which experts have said makes it more difficult to spread the virus, but few people were wearing face coverings. Trump has in the past flouted his own administration’s public health guidelines about social distancing.
President Trump Remarks to Florida Sheriffs … Tampa airport pic.twitter.com/E8RXxC77Ul
— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) July 31, 2020
The persistent pandemic has forced Trump to forgo his standard rallies in large arenas with thousands of people packed together. He held a rally last month in Tulsa, Okla., but attendance was underwhelming and local officials cited the event as a cause for a subsequent increase in virus cases.
A scheduled rally in New Hampshire earlier this month was scrapped, with campaign officials citing a poor weather forecast. But sources close to the campaign acknowledged that turnout was expected to fall short of expectations, much like in Oklahoma.
While Friday’s gathering was not formally billed as a campaign rally, it had all the trappings of one. Trump stepped off Air Force One as “God Bless the USA” played, the same song that kicks off his political events.
His remarks echoed those of other campaign speeches, with references to members of the “squad” of progressive congresswomen, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
Trump spoke about the border and boasted of investments in the military. But most of his focus was on his support for law enforcement, attempting to paint Biden as a candidate who will cave to the left wing of his party and oversee chaos in the streets.
Biden issued a statement earlier Friday condemning Trump’s handling of the pandemic and criticizing his agenda while he’s in the Sunshine State.
“While Floridians, including our frontline health care workers, continue to struggle every day with the far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lives, Donald Trump comes to Florida with no apparent intention of addressing these issues and instead is there to raise money for his campaign with his Mar-a-Lago crowd,” Biden said.
“Throughout this pandemic, Donald Trump has ignored the problem, blamed others, tried to shield the magnitude of the pandemic, rewarded his friends while American families are struggling, and actively tried to divide our country,” he added. “This isn’t the behavior of a leader.”