President Donald Trump didn’t accept his party’s renomination in Jacksonville, but he gave the locals a speech nonetheless, packing thousands into an open-air space at Cecil Field on the Westside.
As the September sun set, the President delivered what was largely a familiar series of applause lines, but a relatively new one was a rumination on how COVID-19 sounded like a vacation in one of the initial hotspots for the virus.
“The people call it coronavirus. It sounds like a beautiful place in Italy,” the President quipped to some applause.
He then reminded the thousands on hand that the virus that has killed 200,000 Americans was from “China,” and adding that Florida has done a great job fighting it.
Ironically, Democrat Joe Biden messaged on the virus before Trump’s speech, saying that since the President’s “last visit to Florida just two weeks ago, over 40,000 more Floridians have tested positive for coronavirus and the state marked 13,000 COVID-related deaths.”
“Black Floridians in Duval County are being hit especially hard by this pandemic, where the number of cases is 2.6 times higher for Black residents than white residents, small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open, and families are reeling from the loss of loved ones,” Biden added.
Trump has gone on record saying he has “downplayed” the virus, and his decision to play it up for rally laughs likely will provide the Biden campaign with more talking points on the pandemic.
Trump was not finished with virus talk. He gave Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry props, saying “we wanted to have our Republican National Convention right here in Jacksonville … but we got hit hard with the China virus.”
The President had a couple more localized lines, including a jibe at Andrew Gillum in the context of praise for the Governor.
“How’s his future? I don’t think it’s too good right now,” Trump said of the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
Otherwise, the President struck familiar themes.
Among them was Sen. Kamala Harris‘ poll collapse during the Democratic primaries, and Biden’s use of “lids” to avoid media interactions while the President “works [his] ass off.”
“The fake news goes home and says he’s a great candidate,” Trump said.
Speaking ahead of the President were Curry, congressional candidate Kat Cammack, U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Mike Waltz, and Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“One of the things I think is exciting is the momentum we have in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said. “I think it’s because the contrast has been so clear now.”
DeSantis called Biden “China’s errand boy,” saying Biden would offer a “Weekend at Bernie’s presidency” controlled by the radical left.