Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump stumped for votes in Jacksonville Aug. 3, attracting a standing-room-only crowd for a rally and wide-ranging speech that outlined in broad strokes the businessman’s key policy objectives amid jabs at President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The 15,000-seat Veterans Memorial Arena was filled to capacity with a diverse crowd that waved Trump signs, sported “Make America Great Again” hats and at various times broke into chants ranging from “Trump! Trump! Trump!” to “Lock her up!” – a reference to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Among the attendees – who ranged in age from small children to senior citizens – were four teens who traveled from Baker and Nassau counties to hear Trump speak.
“My parents were small business owners and all the regulations Obama put in really hurt them,” said Bryce Donker, 17.
Sixteen-year-old Kyrie Holman, meanwhile, said that education was a key factor in her friends’ support for Trump.
“We are very much against Common Core,” she said. “It’s ruining our education and our education system. Government just keeps trying to reach its tentacles into every area of our lives.”
Firing up the base
Prior to Trump’s remarks – which began approximately 45 minutes after the scheduled 7 p.m. starting time – a number of local and national Republican party leaders and public figures fired up the party base in support of Trump’s candidacy, including Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry – who served as master of ceremonies – Republican National Committee Co-Chair Sharon Day, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, pastor Mark Burns, and retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn.
“Republicans are dependent upon the political might of Northeast Florida – a big win here absolutely wipes out our liberal neighbors to the south,” Duval County Republican Party Chairman Cindy Graves told the audience. “Our country is the greatest experiment in freedom the world has ever known and we will not let it end on our watch.”
Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll told attendees, “I keep hearing pundits say that Mr. Trump has no blacks or women supporting him. Last time I checked, I was black and I’m still a woman, and I support Donald Trump!”
Attorney General Pam Bondi shared the Donald Trump she knows as a friend, recounting his devotion to his family and the genuine concern he showed for her mother. Blasting Obama for doubling the national debt to more than $19 trillion – amassing as much debt in eight years as all 43 of his predecessors combined – Bondi said Trump was the man to fix the economy and keep America safe by protecting its borders.
“The amount of cocaine and heroin flowing into our state is ridiculous,” Bondi said, “and Donald Trump is going to do everything he can to stop it.”
By the time Trump took the stage, the crowd was eager to hear what they came for: the sort of free-wheeling, off-the-cuff stump speech that has earned Trump both loyal fans and harsh critics. In an hour-long address presented without a TelePrompTer – a fact Trump highlighted by impersonating Hillary Clinton turning woodenly back and forth, drawing laughs from the audience – Trump touched on a number of key issues, including the economy.
“What we need is leadership,” Trump said. “Our leaders are incompetent. Our debt has doubled under Barack Obama. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. We have a big, fat, horrible problem.”
Noting that in recent years manufacturing jobs across the country had been shipped to other countries, Trump pledged that if he was elected businesses that moved jobs outside the United States would face a 35 percent tax when they tried to import their products back into America for sale. He also blasted Clinton’s husband, President Bill Clinton, for signing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which some contend sent jobs overseas, boosting unemployment and creating economic stagnation.
“(Bill Clinton) cleaned you out,” Trump said. “He cleaned New England out and he cleaned New York state out. We’re going to take care of the miners and steel workers.”
Pointing to the problems European countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany have experienced due to the influx of millions of Middle Eastern immigrants, Trump charged his opponent with wanting to create a similar problem here in America.
“Hillary Clinton wants to bring in people by the tens of thousands,” Trump said, shaking his head slowly. “Not gonna happen.”
He also criticized Obama for refusing to use the term “radical Islamic extremism.”
“If you’re afraid to say what the problem is, if you’re unwilling to talk about the problem, you’re never going to solve the problem,” Trump said. “We’re going to make our country safe again and make America great again. We are going to have law and order.”
Turning to domestic issues, Trump promised to reverse the wave of violence against law enforcement the nation has seen in recent months.
“Never has it been so dangerous to be a police officer,” Trump said. “All the different places police have been killed….it’s going to stop.”
Trump also pledged to repeal Obamacare, eliminate Common Core and appoint Supreme Court justices who will respect the Constitution. So great, in fact, is the likelihood that the next president may appoint three, four or even five new Supreme Court justices, Trump said, that voters who are on the fence should elect him if only to prevent his opponent from shifting the court drastically to the left.
“If you dislike me intensely, if you’d never vote for me in a million years,” Trump said, “you have to.”