President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Donald Trump both made plays in the Jacksonville media market Thursday.
Each man gave a speech; Trump in the early afternoon, then President Obama later on.
One man looked presidential. The other was left gasping for air.
Donald Trump gave a speech intended as a blasting indictment of Hillary Clinton, yet the optics under-delivered.
There are those who say entry was closed at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center, where the speech was held.
Maybe that was the case. But there was plenty of standing room in the back of the house, and even room to sit up top.
And though the front of the house was packed and looked that way in photographs, the crowd was a fraction of Trump’s previous Jacksonville rally in August, which saw the candidate filling the Veterans Memorial Arena downtown.
As has been the case during all of Trump’s rallies, the crowd began to leave halfway through the speech; as if they saw the spectacle and wanted to beat the traffic.
And, though he tried, he couldn’t quite get the local color right: he talked up JAXPORT, but called it “Jack Port.”
Soon after, President Obama gave a speech across town at the University of North Florida.
Here’s a measure of how good a politician he is: he started off the speech with the UNF Osprey “swoop,” which has become iconic in recent years, but never more so than Nov. 3, 2016.
The 6,000 seat UNF Arena: packed, with a line of people outside who couldn’t get in, and an overflow room.
Yes, there were people who got to the Trump event before the break of dawn.
That was true for the Obama event, where at least one reporter commented that students started lining up at 1 a.m.
Obama, who gave essentially the same speech he did in Miami earlier in the day, hit all of the buttons.
He promoted early voting at both, giving the nearest location for that task.
He talked up Hillary Clinton as the continuation of his legacy.
And — very importantly in the Jacksonville market, where the Patrick Murphy campaign didn’t play seriously — he talked up his chosen candidate against Marco Rubio.
In both locations, the president delivered a version of these remarks.
“You just got to be willing to work. You just got to care enough about other people and making sure everybody has got a fair shot. And if you do that — if you do that, then you’re a patriot, and you can contribute to this country that you love. And you can go as far as your dreams can take you. That’s what makes this place special,” Obama said.
“That’s what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny; to found this nation. And that’s what led GIs to liberate a continent. That’s what led women to march to get the ballot. That’s what led marchers to cross a bridge in Selma to win their rights. That’s what allowed workers to organize for collective bargaining and better wages. That’s what’s made America exceptional. That’s what’s always made America great. We’ve never been about just doing for ourselves. It’s been about what we can do together,” Obama added.
These are the rhythms of hope, the cadences of change, delivered flawlessly, with just a bit of the Southern drawl because, after all, Jacksonville is a Southern town.
Unlike Donald Trump, Barack Obama is able to switch up his accent based on geography. The president has that gear. The would-be president does not.
In Jacksonville, Obama noted — regarding Republicans — that “now that it looks like their nominee might lose,” the GOP has promised “‘years’ of investigation,” and of hearings, of shutdown, of obstruction, of repeal Obamacare votes.
Steve Schale noted earlier today Duval “is a place where African-American turnout is a little low, about 25 percent to date (compared to about 30 percent statewide). But this is also a place where African-American turnout rises in the final weekend and into Election Day, so the president is right on time.”
Hillary Clinton is not a great candidate, unsuited to Northeast Florida. But she doesn’t have to win here, Schale said. All she has to do is keep it close.
Barack Obama will get people to the polls. Expect the next few days to see bigger turnout with African-American voters, young voters, and those NPAs who may not agree with Barack Obama on everything policy, but who love the man’s swagger and embodiment of the American spirit.
Trump may have projected that once upon a time. But for those outside of the GOP tent, that’s not the case in 2016.
Ric Flair used to have an expression before the end of his matches: “Now, we go to school!”
In Jacksonville, President Obama was the teacher. Donald Trump got the drop slip.