Thousands of supporters filled an amphitheater west of Boca Raton for Donald Trump on Sunday as polls show the part-time Palm Beach resident riding a big lead into Tuesday’s Florida Republican primary.
“This is my second home. I love Florida,” Trump said after arriving by helicopter at Sunset Cove Amphitheater in Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park.
Trump made an early reference to “what a lousy senator you have” — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who trails in his home state and whose presidential hopes will likely be extinguished with a Florida loss.
Just two nights after thousands of protesters packed a Trump rally in Chicago and the Trump campaign cited security threats in calling off the event, Sunday’s rally featured few interruptions or disturbances.
A man and two teenagers were led out by Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office deputies near the end of Trump’s remarks after getting involved in a shoving match. As Trump’s helicopter prepared to leave, about two dozen supporters and two dozen opponents of the celebrity mogul shouted slogans at each other from opposite sides of a road, separated by about 15 deputies.
Addressing the Chicago incident, Trump said: “We had some, I would say they were — let’s be nice –protesters, OK? Let’s call them protesters. And we had had a decision to make. We had to make this decision. We want peace, we want happiness, we want everyone to go home really happy, really peaceful, so we said, you know what we’ll do, we’ll postpone it, and it was a really wise decision.”
Trump spent much of his remarks crowing about his poll numbers and lead in Republican delegates over rivals Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“I win with women. I win with men. I love the women. I do love the women. … We win with the military. We win with the vets. We win with young, we win with old. We win with highly educated and we win with less than highly educated,” Trump said.
Trump bragged that he has a 21-point lead in Florida, but urged his supporters to act is if the race is close.
“It’s very important to vote — but only if you’re going to vote for Donald J. Trump, OK? Otherwise, don’t vote. Do not vote if you’re going to vote for anybody else.”
Before Trump took the stage, campaign adviser Stephen Miller urged the crowd to deal Rubio a knockout blow.
“We are two days away — two days away from ending once and for all the menace of Marco Rubio,” Miller said.
Trump repeated his signature pledge to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it, but said critics are wrong to brand him anti-Hispanic.
“I love the Mexican people. I love the Hispanic people. So many work for me,” Trump said.
Although Trump is leading the race for the Republican nomination, the crowds he draws are nothing like a traditional Republican gathering.
“We’re not loyal to the GOP. We’re loyal to Trump,” said Harley Bradley, of Delray Beach. “We’re sick of electing politicians that don’t do what they promise. It’s as simple as that. Trump’s not a politician. He’s a businessman. That’s why the GOP is so scared of him — he’s going to upset their gravy train,” Bradley said.
Trump’s promise to build a border wall and bring back jobs is reviving voters of both parties who have become apathetic, said Paul Pontrelli, a 79-year-old New York Department of Corrections captain.
“Building that wall is bringing the silent majority forward. Why else do you think all these people are here?” said Pontrelli, pointing to the growing crowd in front of the stage.
Tony Gannacone, of Boca Raton, brought a sign that read “Trump Lives Matter” in response to Friday night’s cancellation of the Chicago rally.
“All lives matter. After Chicago, it’s pretty clear that the lives of people who support Trump don’t matter … It’s a travesty the way we’re being treated,” Gannacone said.
Gus Bohme, a teacher at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, was leaning toward voting for Rubio. Then he saw the mayhem in Chicago.
“Trump should be able to say what he wants to say. I’m here to listen,” said Bohme as he stood in line.
Angelika Laskawska, 24, of Boca Raton, said many of her peers like Trump because “he tells the truth … If you asked 25 of my friends who they are voting for, 20 would say Trump.”
Not everyone who came to the rally was a Trump fan.
John Nichols, a Toronto resident who has a winter home in Deerfield Beach, says his fellow Canadians are “offended by the rhetoric and anger of the campaign.” He predicted the Trump enthusiasm will calm down by November.
“I think your better angels will prevail,” Nichols said.
Jasmen Rogers and about 20 members of Broward Black Lives Matter were told by Palm Beach County deputies they could not enter. Chanting “Black Lives Matter,” they gathered about a football field away and marched. About 10 PBSO stood silently around the demonstrators as a crowd gathered.
There were no incidents.
“We wanted to go inside and listen. Is that so bad?” said Rogers, wearing a black T-shirt that read “Are you scared of my truth?”
One of the few African-Americans at the rally was Sly Buford, a real estate investor who lives in Boca Raton. He has read several of Trump’s books and admires him as a businessman.
“I’ve gotten lots of looks from people. I can tell they are thinking, ‘What are you doing here?’ I can tell what they are thinking. It makes me feel sad that in 2016 many people still hate each other,” he said standing in front of the stage waiting for Trump.
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