U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign will kick-off with a rally in downtown Orlando, Florida, Tuesday night, but his most loyal fans have already camped outside of the Amway Center since early Monday to claim their spot in line.
Several hundred Trump supporters were gathered a block away from the rally venue Monday evening, with the first ones in line saying they have been there since 4 am. They brought tents, lawn chairs and coolers full of snacks and beverages, and plenty of umbrellas to protect against the elements, including a thunder storm which lasted about half an hour in the early evening.
Many of them say they support Trump’s economic and immigration policies. Nathan Gunn, who will be voting for the first time in 2020 said he supports Trump’s America First agenda and loves what the president is doing with “the big crisis we have in the border with people flooding in”. Gunn also like the fact that Trump is “not politically correct”.
“People don’t really see what’s really true about him, and that’s why they hate him,” Gunn said. “They don’t really see what he’s capable of, what he’s actually doing for the country.”
Maureen Bailey from Volusia County and her twin sister Laureen came at 6 am. She said she is a life-long Republican who prior to 2016 has always supported establishment candidates. Bailey used to think that Trump’s name-calling as “unnecessary” but now finds Trump’s controversial speech “refreshing”.
“He’s just a breath of fresh air,” Bailey said. “He just gets up there and he goes off script. You just never know what’s going to come out of his mouth.”
Monday night Trump tweeted about those waiting.
Thousands of people are already lined up in Orlando, some two days before tomorrow nights big Rally. Large Screens and food trucks will be there for those that can’t get into the 25,000 capacity arena. It will be a very exciting evening! Make America Great Again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019
Not all who will show up Tuesday are supporters.
The Miami Chapter of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida and the Puerto Rican Democratic Club of Miami Dade are organizing a “caravan” from Miami to Orlando to give the president the message that he is not welcomed.
The bus and the car caravan will make stops in Palm Beach and Boca Raton and eventually join activists from various groups in an Orlando rally scheduled for 5:00 p.m., hours before the Trump rally. They say they are mobilizing to demand Trump to stop what they call “attacks on the Hispanic communities”.
Several of Trump’s former employees at his golf clubs in New York and New Jersey who were fired after revealing their undocumented status to the media are also crashing his 2020 campaign kickoff. Anibal Romero, a lawyer for the workers said they plan to hold a press conference outside the rally venue Tuesday morning.
Trump Org. undocumented ex-employees traveling to Orlando to Trump rally. They have a message for America. “We are good people who love America and deserve better. Together we make this country the greatest in the world” Get to work Congress! pic.twitter.com/ok0cImEWSo
— Abogado Anibal NY/NJ (@AnibalRomeroLaw) June 17, 2019
“Trump Org. undocumented ex-employees traveling to Orlando to Trump rally. They have a message for America. “We are good people who love America and deserve better. Together we make this country the greatest in the world” Get to work Congress!”
Florida is key
With its 29 electoral college votes, Florida is the biggest swing state in the nation, and winning it is key. Republican Pollster Whit Ayres called Florida “absolutely critical” for the president’s re-election prospects. “It’s very difficult to put together the pieces to get 270 electoral votes without Florida’s votes,” he said.
Trump won Florida by a margin on one percentage point in 2016 and his re-election launch is specifically targeting Central Florida, where Orlando is located. The region is strategic politically, given the fact that other parts of the state are either solidly Democrat or Republican, but Central Florida where about half of the state’s registered voters live, is largely independent.
Orlando, the town most known as a tourist destination, home of Universal Studios and Sea World, is part of what is known as the I-4 corridor — the 214 kilometer long interstate highway that goes from the east to the west part of Florida.
Linda Trocine, Chairman of the Republican Party of Seminole County, one of the most densely populated suburbs of Orlando, leads a team of Trump volunteers in the area. She highlighted how the I-4 corridor is the swing part of the state and decides the how the state will vote.
Trocine said that 2020 is different than 2016 because now there is “complete unity”. “We have unity at the Republican National Committee level, at the Republican Party or Florida level, and here locally in the in Seminole County,” she said.
While Florida’s state legislators and governorship are controlled by Republicans since the mid-90s, in presidential elections, the state has flipped back and forth and usually by a very narrow margin. This includes the 2000 presidential race when George W. Bush was declared the winner over Democrat Al Gore by about 500 votes out of 6 million.
In the past 50 years, the road to the White House has always included taking Florida, with the exception of Bill Clinton in 1992.