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  1. Florida Politics
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Live updates: Trump at The Villages

The White House changed the name of today’s event at the Villages, from ‘Protecting Medicare from Socialist Destruction’ to ‘Protecting and Improving Medicare for our Nation’s Seniors.'
President Donald Trump speaks to his supporters at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center in The Villages, Florida on Thursday, October 3, 2019. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

President Donald Trump’s long awaited trip to Central Florida’s The Villages is now.

Trump is touting his support for Medicare and its private insurance option as he counters the “Medicare for All” plan that is pushed by some, though definitely not all, Democrats. Administration officials say the purpose of the trip is for Trump to sign an executive order that calls for bolstering Medicare Advantage, a private insurance option picked by one-third of seniors.

At 1:49 p.m. he took the stage in the community’s performing arts center and immediately attacked Democrats.

RELATED STORY: In Florida, Trump scorns impeachment talk, bashes ‘socialist’ Medicare for All

“These people on the other side ... they want to take your health care away and give you lousy health care,” Trump said.

The day’s event happened as whistleblowers, subpoenas, cover-up allegations and impeachment proceedings dogged Trump in Washington.

Trump, more subdued than he has been at his previous Florida political rallies, only touched on his troubles. Midway through his speech, Trump referred to the impeachment inquiry this way: “It’s corruption what’s going on right now...it’s pure corruption.”

Then he moved back to the topic at hand: healthcare.

He spoke generally about health care and what he proposed in ways that needed further elaboration.

Trump said his executive order would expand options, increase access to new medical technologies and cut back on needless regulations so doctors “can spend less time on paperwork and more time on the patients that they love.”

He made references to a few Florida-specific health care proposals: Trump hinted at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to import drugs from Canada and said there would be more announcements to lower Rx prices. He also said other states should pass “certificate of need” repeals like Florida.

When his speech ended, he signed the executive order surrounded by DeSantis, First Lady Casey DeSantis, several Florida congressmen and Villages supporters.

But the impeachment was never far from his mind.

He returned to it during the speech when he spoke about 2020.

“That’s why (Democrats) do the impeachment crap because they know they can never beat us fairly.”

He found an adoring crowd at The Villages, a vital part of his base in a state he needs to win in 2020. Some 68 percent of The Villages voted for Trump in 2016 and the tri-county area around The Villages arguably pushed him atop Clinton in 2016. He was plus 115,000 votes in Lake, Marion and Sumter counties, and won Florida by 113,000.

Trump told the crowd he met a guy outside with “my name tattooed on his leg.”

Trump supporters here talk about the 2020 election the same way the Democrats talk about it: fear of irrevocable consequences if he’s not elected. And they have his back.

“Among all the negativity that surrounds him from many different kinds of people - from Antifa to the radical Democrats - he still gets things done,” Becky Lampinen said. “I don’t think there’s any man I’ve ever known that could do that, other than God.”

Before Trump arrived in Florida, he made headlines again when he publicly suggested that China should join in the effort to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, even though his phone conversation with the Ukrainian president on this same topic is what spurred the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Trump was expected to start talking at 1:10 p.m. at a performing arts center in The Villages. But that’s now past and the stage is still empty. At 1:15 p.m. they played Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. It’s a go-to song for Trump.

One thing is certain. He has loads of support at The Villages. Check these testimonials out.

“Three words: Impeachment — for what?,” said one attendee, sporting a “Trump: Keep America Great” ball cap. “The president’s been investigated since before he got into office. Let’s be fair, if President Trump did something, then he did something. But let him do his job.”

RELATED STORY: Trump visits Florida today. Will impeachment be discussed?

Reporters were filing from the lobby of the performing art center where Trump was speaking. It’s a converted church. Before Trump appeared, the crowd chanted “FOUR MORE YEARS!”

There was a smattering of Democrats (yes, some do live at The Villages) protesting Trump’s visit.

One of those protesting at a local deli, Dee Melvin, is running for a state House seat that hasn’t gone blue in decades. Still, she says she’s too frustrated by Trump not to get involved. “He’s selling our country to the highest bidder,” she said.

Dee Melvin [EMILY L. MAHONEY | Tampa Bay Times]

RELATED STORY: ‘Protecting Medicare from socialist destruction’: Trump event undergoes name change

Hours before Trump arrived, a crowd lined up to get inside.

This is a developing story.




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