It was the first campaign event for Donald Trump in Tampa since he became the likely Republican presidential nominee. Notably, it marked nearly a year since he announced his candidacy.
The event drew thousands well before Trump's private jet/helicopter/teleportation module delivered the man to the stage at the Tampa Convention Center — an event that managed to pass without incident despite concerns there would be trouble, as has happened in other cities. Among those who spoke were Governor Rick Scott (who said three — 3! — things) and Attorney General Pam Bondi (who gave some brief remarks despite the bruising she's been given in the media lately over Trump University).
Trump rallies cannot be contained within what journalists refer to as the inverted pyramid. So much goes on, and so much of it is captivating and intense. The biggest takeaways deserve their own headlines (and even then it's hard to do them justice).
It was raining women in downtown Tampa Saturday morning.
In the hour-and-a-half or so ahead of Trump's speech, supporters spoke of the Republican Party's storied legacy of egalitarianism and rich history of embracing diversity, both of which (used to?) totally exist.
Trump, who famously accused Clinton of playing the "woman's card," himself threw down a pretty cool hand Saturday. The handful of speakers of the female persuasion framed Clinton as the ultimate anti-feminist candidate, while not bringing up Trump's (or the party's) own issues with courting women (or, at least, womyn).
“The state that we are proud to call home will once again play an important role in this election by making sure that in Florida, we put Donald Trump in...and we take back the White House,” said Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee. “Together we will do everything that we can to make sure that crooked Hillary never gets back into that White House.”
Day, of course, probably wasn't just there because she's lucky enough to possess two x-chromosomes whilst also somehow supporting Trump. She's pretty important. But in a state deemed crucial in the November election, it might not hurt to have a lady telling other ladies that the lady candidate in this race is not the right lady candidate.
“I want to see a woman president one day," Day said. "I want my granddaughters to see a woman president one day. But not that woman.”
Dena DeCamp, head of the Florida Federation of Women Republicans, continued to hammer that message.
“Smart women know Hillary and Obama's real record. And we are voting for Donald Trump,” she said, adding that Clinton waged a "war on women" against her husband's girlfriends, and that Clinton, who has long been known for her own ambition and accomplishments, achieved all she did on her “husband's coattails.”
“That is not historic and it is not an achievement in feminism," she said. "It's the opposite.”
Oh, yes. The party of inclusion.
The notion that the GOP lacks diversity, DeCamp said, was a “fairy tale,” a theme that carried over to the speaker who followed her, a boisterous (read: Trump needs a new sound guy) African-American televangelist who had some sharp words for Clinton on race.
“She tries to call Donald Trump the racist. She's the racist,” said Pastor Mark Burns, founder of the NOW television network. “Because the Democratic Party has done everything they can to separate us, divide us.”
(He didn't elaborate.)
Tea party Congressman Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville, who led the charge against former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (and who also compared being transgender to waking up one morning and deciding you want to be a dog and pee everywhere), slammed Clinton for her establishment ways, as well as the corruption claims that have been lobbed at her over the years.
“She has absolutely no regard for the rule of law or the Constitution," Yoho said. "She thinks it's a suggestion.”
Bondi did the same.
“So, we have Hillary Clinton, who wants to build a wall around herself, to protect herself from the FBI. And then we have Donald Trump, who is going to build a huuuge wall,” Bondi said. “Hillary Clinton is consumed with making history by becoming the first female president. Donald Trump is consumed with something else: keeping our American dream from becoming history.”
One thing we noticed was Trump's use of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World," a song Young famously asked the Trump campaign to stop using because Trump is basically the antithesis of that song. In May, Rolling Stone reported that Young didn't really mind that much after all. His playlist also included quite a few tracks from the Rolling Stones and Elton John, tunes that frequently play at his rallies despite complaints from the artists.
The speech was a bit boilerplate. Hillary: bad. Giant wall Mexico will obviously pay for: good. Iran nuke deal: "the Persians are good negotiators." Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whom he has ridiculed for playing up her Native American ancestry: “I said Pocahontas. Pocahontas.” On the GOP establishment (a word the audience dutifully booed every time it was uttered): “I've had more opposition from the Republican Party than I do from the Democrats.” The recent endorsement from famed boxing promoter Don King: “You think he's going to endorse a racist, okay?” The media: “The cameras? They never scan the room. The only time they scan the room is when there's a protester.” (Editor's Note: There were so many people at this rally! Thousands! It was huuuuge!)
Donald Trump supporter Tricia Sorenson says she has supported him since before he decided to run for president. She said she had hoped he would run since last election because she genuinely believes he wants to fix the country’s problems.
“Border security, his business background, jobs for the country, security, there are so many reasons,” she says about why she supports him. “I just think he really loves this country. I really see that in him and he wants to help the country, that’s what I believe.”
Sorenson says she believes he resonates with the average person and that is why he is doing so well in this election. She says the mainstream politics are crooked and Trump speaks to the average person. She says he doesn’t talk above you, but he talks to you.
University of Tampa student and Trump supporter Lindsey Dickerson said she supports Trump because of tax reform. She says it’s beneficial to our generation as we go into the workforce and leave school. She also says immigration reform is another factor for why she supports Trump.
“Yes, [immigrants] need a path, but they need a real path," Dickerson said. "My parents came here legally and signed up to be citizens the right way,” she says. “If they can do it then why can’t everyone do the same thing? I understand there is political corruption in other countries like in Cuba and that’s an exception. I just don’t think people should be able to come here illegally and have a baby to be able to stay, and it’s sad but that’s what they are doing.”
She said her father shuttered his small business due to onerous U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and she blames the Obama Administration. Dickerson said she believe the current administration does not want small businesses to succeed, but the business climate would be fixed if Trump is elected president.
A Trump fan models what will likely be the most popular Halloween costume this year.
After Trump's rally, protesters had a few words for Trump supporters who filed out of the Convention Center.