Dozens of hardcore supporters for President Trump camped overnight last night outside Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, the site of the president’s primetime appearance tonight.
The event comes four weeks before Floridians go to the polls in the primary election, and if there were any doubts about how the Florida Republican Party has been transformed into the Party of Trump, the governor’s race is all the evidence needed to know that this is a different GOP in the Sunshine State.
Trump is backing gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and that fact has altered the race considerably. Putnam, a fifth generation Floridian from Polk County, was long considered the likely Republican nominee due to his long experience as a state legislator, U.S. Representative, and Agriculture Commissioner.
Putnam also has outraised DeSantis by a 3:1 margin, but since July 6, DeSantis has led every public opinion poll on the race, and there are now reports that some Republicans are calling on Putnam to drop out.
DeSantis’ growing popularity among the Republican base has revolved around his frequent appearances on the Fox News Channel and Trump’s support, though this is the first time the president has actually made an appearance on behalf of DeSantis. DeSantis has represented his district in the Ponte Vedra Beach area since 2014.
The president and DeSantis will not be joined by Governor Rick Scott, a close Trump ally who is running for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Bill Nelson this fall. Scott has publicly said that he does not want to be seen as endorsing anyone in the Putnam-DeSantis contest, but he will join Trump today in Tampa when they both make an appearance at Tampa Bay Technical High School.
Meanwhile, protestors who oppose the president and his policies will be gathering inside the official “First Amendment Activities Area” – an area located away from Expo Hall off of Highway 301, where Trump’s rally takes place tonight. It’s being led by Indivisible Action Tampa Bay, Organize Florida and NextGen Florida.
Also showing up to protest the president will be Jeff Greene, a billionaire Democratic candidate for Florida governor who is also a neighbor of Trump’s in West Palm Beach.
A flier for Greene’s event says that while there will be a protest zone set up across from the fairgrounds, “you can look for the big Jeff Greene Fighting for Florida Bus to find us.”
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