PANAMA CITY BEACH — President Donald Trump, a man who has continued to hold rallies even shortly after he was elected in 2016, appeared back in his element on Wednesday evening as he stepped firmly back into campaign mode for 2020.
“I want to run so badly,” Trump told the crowd of roughly 7,000 people at the outdoor Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater in Panama City Beach. “I want this race to start immediately.”
After first addressing the issue of post-Hurricane Michael funding — promising a boost in federal dollars to compensate for Washington’s stalemate over passing their disaster relief package — Trump returned to his campaign roots.
READ MORE: Trump holds rally, amid debris, in Florida’s Panhandle
Calling Democrats the “party of high taxes, high crime, open borders, late-term abortions, witch hunts and delusions,” he spoke for about 30 minutes straight about immigration in particular in a speech that lasted about 80 minutes total.
Immigration is the issue on which Trump pegged his 2016 campaign, and it’s and one that launched him immediately into controversy. Wednesday, he reminisced about his first campaign speech, during which he said of Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
“If you remember when I made the speech at the base of Trump Tower ... I mentioned the word ‘rape,’” Trump told the crowd. “That speech was so mild compared to what’s actually happening. You read it today, it’s like unbelievable.”
He railed against so-called “sanctuary cities" and claimed immigrants are mounting an “invasion” of people and drugs. The crowd returned to a favorite chant of “Build the wall!”
At one point, Trump lamented that there are too many immigrants crossing the border but not enough border patrol agents or weapons.
“How do we stop these people?” he asked, to which someone in the crowd yelled: “Shoot them!”
Trump smiled and replied: “Only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”
Trump also accused Democrats, especially those running for president, of becoming too “outside the American mainstream.” He called former Vice President Joe Biden “sleepy” and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders “crazy." Trump also mocked South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, saying sarcastically that he “has a great chance," and said former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has “fallen like a rock.”
In addition to Trump’s speech, several of Florida’s top Republicans also made appearances, including: Gov. Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, state Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
“We have a choice to make in 2020. We’re at a crossroads in our nation’s history,” Nuñez said. “One path will keep us on the road that President Trump has paved: the road to prosperity ... The other path is being paved by the far-left.”