Trump in Florida: Says again that immigrants are 'poisoning our country'

WEST PALM BEACH — Donald Trump's post-primary, post-trial return to the stage in his home county Friday night was kicked off by a chorus of "Happy Birthday" and punctuated by his trademark dark, dystopian view of "a failing" America.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee spoke at a gathering in West Palm Beach on Friday evening, hosted by a Trump support group that alternately celebrated Flag Day and the former president's 78th birthday. Trump decried the state of the United States, which he said is crippled by inflation, high interest rates and Washington's eroded prestige on the world stage evidenced by, he said, a Russian military vessel docking in Cuba.

His harshest assessment, per usual, dealt with immigration and the border with Mexico. Trump again claimed millions of people are coming into the country straight out of prisons and mental institutions, and employed terminology critics said harkens to Nazi rhetoric.

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"They come from Africa. They come from Asia. They come from South America. They come from the Middle East," he said to the gathering of the Club 47. "What's happening to our country is unbelievable. They are poisoning our country. They are destroying our country and we're not going to let it happen."

Trump spoke for about an hour, far shorter than his standard stump speeches. The rhetoric was sharp but he omitted much of the showmanship characteristic of his performative rallies, such as skits ridiculing President Joe Biden and a transgender weightlifter.

Trump recited "The Snake" lyrics, a 1960s song he repurposed into an allegory of the immigration crisis. But there were fewer audience chants and Trump did not muse about Hannibal Lecter, the fictional character from the 1990s movie "Silence of the Lambs," while dwelling less than he usually does about his personal grievances, such as the indictments and costly civil cases.

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The speech at times rambled as Trump repeated key positions while checking off talking-point criticisms of electric vehicles, boasting about his 2017 tax cuts and the defeat of the ISIS terrorist organization. In a second term, he promised to end the policy of taxing tips for restaurant workers, deny federal funds to school districts with vaccine mandates — though he again did not specify for which diseases — and pledged to make Florida a cryptocurrency hub, but offered no details.

And, of course, he concluded with a promise to make America great again.

"Our country is going to hell but we're going to stop it, we're going stop it fast," he said. "We will bring our country back. We will bring it back quickly."

Former President Donald J. Trump arrives to speak to members of the Club 47 USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center June 14, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Florida
Former President Donald J. Trump arrives to speak to members of the Club 47 USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center June 14, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Florida

Trump speech was his first here after primary season, New York trial

Trump's speech at the Palm Beach Convention Center, which is about five miles from Trump's Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, marked his first local public remarks following his clinching of the GOP presidential nomination this spring. And it was delivered on the heels of the stinging New York conviction last month on felony charges of falsifying business records to conceal what prosecutors said was a hush money payment to cover up an alleged sexual encounter with an adult film actress, which Trump denies.

Trump gathered the MAGA faithful in South Florida with fewer than two weeks before a scheduled debate with President Joe Biden, and sandwiched between rallies in swing states Nevada last weekend and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin next week.

But for those attending the gathering at the convention center Friday, it was again a festive occasion.

Among the few thousand in attendance was Wellington resident Barry Rosenberg. The Vietnam War veteran said he is confident Trump will win the White House again and deliver on "the big things" — making permanent the 2017 tax cuts and securing the southern border.

"When Trump came around I started following him. I really appreciated all that he did in the time he had in the White House," Rosenberg said. "I really do believe that he can make America great again."

Trump supporter Marianela Joli of Miami, far right, attended former President Trump's speech at Club 47 on June 14 .
Trump supporter Marianela Joli of Miami, far right, attended former President Trump's speech at Club 47 on June 14 .

Another attendee said she made the drive up from Miami simply for the patriotic message and celebration of the day.

"Yes it's true, I came for Trump but also because today is the day to honor the national flag of the United States of America," said Marianela Joli, who came to the United States in 1990 with her father and three sisters from the Dominican Republic. "Not of your country, or my country, but the only country that has clothed us and protected us."

Trump claimed that a Hispanic voters are now planning to vote for him, and Florida Atlantic University and Mainstreet Research poll suggests released June 12 suggests that is spot on in Florida. Among likely Latino voters asked, the survey showed Trump trouncing Biden by 51.2% to 35,1%.

Joli, who works in immigration law along with her sister, said she particularly embraced Trump's message of hard work and a secure border.

"I work in an immigration office. I have learned a lot about people there. I listen to them to know if they are really coming with a true purpose to grow, or to seek handouts," said Joli, who added that two of her three sons are serving in the U.S. military. "You come to this country to work."

Former President Donald J. Trump speaks to members of Club 47 USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center on June 14, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Former President Donald J. Trump speaks to members of Club 47 USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center on June 14, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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Trump's speech toned down, left out more outlandish themes

In Las Vegas on June 9, Trump riffed about the choice he might have to make if on a sinking electric-powered boat, sunk by its own weight, and mused about whether it would be preferable to be electrocuted by the boat's battery or eaten by a shark.

The soliloquy, which Trump has spoken about in other rallies, drew ridicule and sardonic commentary.

"The fact that he sounds like a crazy person when he talks I am actually glad, I have to say, to have Trump back in the limelight and out of the courtroom," said Sarah Longwell, founder of Republican Voters Against Trump, during a network cable news program June 13.

Club 47 USA presents former President Donald J Trump with a massive cake for his 78th birthday during an event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, on June 14, 2024 in West Palm Beach, Florida,
Club 47 USA presents former President Donald J Trump with a massive cake for his 78th birthday during an event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, on June 14, 2024 in West Palm Beach, Florida,

Longwell added that she hoped the more the U.S. public hears Trump talk — whether it's comparing his legal prosecutions to those of 20th Century mobster Al Capone or making outlandish claims about offshore wind turbines killing whales — the more he reminds voters of why they have grown to "dislike" him.

"When they see Trump and they see him behaving this way they remember, 'Oh yeah, he is a global embarrassment to the United States. He's not a smart person.' This person shouldn't be within 1,000 feet of the White House," Longwell said. "So, good, Donald Trump get out there, be Trump, remind America who you are and let's hope that America rejects you again like they did last time in 2020."

But one pollster said Trump's eyebrow-raising statements may not dissuade voters as much as his detractors might desire.

Former President Donald Trump speaks before members of the Club 47 USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center June 14, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Former President Donald Trump speaks before members of the Club 47 USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center June 14, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

"Trump's opponents say, 'You want more of this chaos. Go ahead'," said Tim Malloy, a polling analyst for Quinnipiac University and a former reporter and anchor for a West Palm Beach TV station. "We've all known Trump for a long time now, so … how much more surprising can anything get?"

A Quinnipiac poll released last month had Biden up by a single point over Trump, 48% to 47%, well within the margin of error. More significantly, perhaps, roughly 20% of those polled said they were open to changing their minds and voting for a different candidate.

Malloy said another notable factor could be those Republican voters who have insisted to pollsters that they will not support Trump because of the Manhattan guilty verdict. Quinnipiac voter surveys, like others, show that that population might be in the 6% range.

"That's the one sort-of wild card in a close race," Malloy said. "It's not a big number but in a race that tight, six points could be the make-or-break."

Supporters of former President Donald J. Trump cheer during a Club 47 USA event Friday June 14, 2024, at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Supporters of former President Donald J. Trump cheer during a Club 47 USA event Friday June 14, 2024, at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Malloy also noted there is a potentially significant share of undecided voters that, while not an exceedingly large pool, is still unusually sizeable at this time in comparison to previous presidential election years. That's where, he added, bombast that turns off independent and crossover Democratic voters could prove costly.

"The base alone is not going to get him elected," he said, estimating that the MAGA base accounts for about 30%-plus of the electorate. "That's not enough, so he can't lose people."

Potential Trump running mates from Florida served as warm-up acts

Before Trump spoke, various members of Florida's GOP-dominated congressional delegation stepped up to the podium, including a pair of speculative vice-presidential running mates, U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. In addition, U.S. Reps. Brian Mast of Palm City, Cory Mills of Lake Mary, Michael Waltz of Palm Coast and Gus Bilirakis of New Port Richey were in attendance, as were state Reps. Rick Roth of West Palm Beach and Webster Barnaby of Deltona.

Both Donalds and Rubio echoed Trump and MAGA clarion calls and slogans.

"You're all ready to go to make sure that on Nov. 5 we fire Joe Biden for a terrible job," said Donalds, a Naples congressman.

Rubio spoke longer and sounded MAGA crowd favorite themes, including blasting Biden for the consumer price increases of the past three years and the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. He even ridiculed Biden, saying he "would get lost on this stage."

Antonio Fins is a politics and business editor at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at afins@pbpost.com. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Trump, in West Palm, on immigrants: "They are poisoning our country"

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