Enthusiasm gap for Donald Trump?
With President Barack Obama across town at the University of North Florida, the GOP presidential nominee couldn’t fill the 6,500-person capacity Jacksonville Equestrian Center.
“Great crowd, thank you very much,” Trump said to kick off the event, before discussing poll numbers favorable for him, then launching into his usual critiques of the corrupt Clinton machine.
“We’re leading all over,” Trump said, before sharing “breaking news” regarding “an FBI investigation” into “Hillary Clinton pay-for-play … putting the office of secretary of state up for auction.”
Trump asserted “the investigation is likely to lead to an indictment,” causing the “lock her up” chants to echo throughout the room, creating an ethereal droning noise toward the empty space in the back.
“She shouldn’t be allowed to run for the office of president, and that is where the system is rigged,” Trump said.
Much of Trump’s speech was the greatest hits tour. Well-worn routines about Clinton hammering phones to destroy them only deviated when he asked the crowd if any of them had destroyed phones.
One hand went up.
“I don’t want to know what business you’re in,” Trump quipped.
Trump called a Clinton presidency a “constitutional crisis.”
“This isn’t what we need … we need somebody who’s going to go to work,” Trump said. “This is going to be a mess for many years to come.”
Trump noted he saw Air Force One in Miami; upon mentioning President Barack Obama, the boos echoed off the empty back wall of the rodeo space.
“Why isn’t he back working? He’s campaigning every day. She’s under criminal investigation. I think he has a conflict.”
Citing WikiLeaks, Trump speculated that “Obama knew what she was doing.”
The Obamacare riff resurfaced. While it seemed fresh just days before, in the context of this campaign’s accelerated news cycles, it seemed as novel as last summer’s hit single.
“The president kept lying and lying. Premiums are surging, companies are leaving, and deductibles are through the roof,” Trump said, calling Obamacare a “catastrophe” on which “Hillary Clinton wants to double down.”
“It’s bigger than your mortgage; it’s bigger than your rent,” Trump continued.
Donna Brazile? Yes, there was a riff on her also.
“She took the questions and gave them to Crooked Hillary,” Trump said, before pivoting to poor Bernie Sanders.
“At some point,” Trump said, “doesn’t he tell her supporters to vote for Trump?”
As well, said Trump, “we are living through the biggest jobs theft in the history of the world … from now on, it’s going to be America First.”
NAFTA is on thin ice. So is currency manipulation. And the “job-killing Trans Pacific Partnership.” And “billions in global warming payments to the United Nations” will be canceled.
Continuing the Buchanan-ite America First theme, Trump spent some time discussing wars overseas as part of the Clinton legacy, saying we defend the borders of countries far away while keeping ours open.
As well, Trump botched his policy play to the locals, vowing support for “Jack Port.” [Note to outsiders and Trump operatives: it’s JAXPORT].
“We are led by stupid people,” said Trump. “Remember that.”
Later in the speech, he did manage to get the name of Mayport right, when talking about the 350-ship Navy he wanted to create.
Perhaps because of the heat in the half-empty room on an 80-degree day, Trump’s critiques of the media were muted, limited to saying the press was protecting Clinton, yet “the protected one is not well-protected.”
“When we win on Nov. 8,” Trump vowed, “we are going to Washington D.C. and we are going to drain the swamp!”
As has been customary with Jacksonville events for Trump, the crowd began to trickle out about 40 minutes into his remarks.
Perhaps to beat the crowd. What there was of it.