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With 11 days to go, Trump swings through Florida again

The Friday rallies, in the Villages and Pensacola, come 24 hours after the final presidential debate.

THE VILLAGES — President Donald Trump made another swing through the Sunshine State on Friday with rallies in The Villages and the Panhandle, demonstrating yet again how critical Florida is to the presidential race.

He again downplayed the severity of the pandemic, saying the country was in the “final turn," even as the U.S. neared an all-time high for daily coronavirus cases on Friday.

At his afternoon rally at The Villages — a retirement hub of 125,000 residents north of Orlando — Trump repeated many of his broadsides from Thursday night’s final presidential debate. He attacked Democratic nominee Joe Biden over his statements on immigration, health care and transitioning the country away from the oil industry.

“Joe Biden proved last night that he’s not capable of being president of the United States,” Trump said.

Related: Trump holds another raucous rally in Pensacola, where he’ll need every vote he can get
President Donald Trump pumps his fists to "Y.M.C.A." by the Village People moments after wrapping up his speech during his Make America Great Again rally on Friday at The Villages.
President Donald Trump pumps his fists to "Y.M.C.A." by the Village People moments after wrapping up his speech during his Make America Great Again rally on Friday at The Villages. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

The president also spent much of his 80-minute speech dwelling on Medicare and Social Security. He showed a video of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who earlier sought the Democratic nomination, grilling Biden at a debate about statements Biden made as a senator indicating he would be open to cutting Medicare and Social Security payments. Biden told Sanders he never said that.

“He’s a liar," Trump said. "He’s lies about everything.”

The rally included many of Trump’s greatest hits, with claims that the border wall is almost complete and that Mexico is paying for it, about the vitality of the economy before the pandemic and the strength of the recovery.

It was Trump’s first Florida rally since he and his surrogates toured the state last week. He held Make America Great Again rallies in Fort Myers and Ocala last Friday, capping off a week in which he also visited Sanford while his son, Donald Trump Jr., rallied in Clearwater with congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna. But much has happened since the president was last in the Sunshine State.

Related: Back in Florida, Trump rallies in Ocala with 18 days to go

Thursday brought the final presidential debate, a more congenial affair than the first debate, in which Trump and Biden cut each other and the moderator off. The discussion on Thursday, which featured muted microphones to limit candidate interruptions, covered COVID-19, race, climate change and the state of the economy.

And this week, the president walked out of an interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl. Trump posted the interview to Facebook, telling followers to “Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS.” He attacked Stahl and the news magazine show again on Friday.

"These people are sick, they are bad,” he said.

Supporters react as President Donald Trump speaks during his Make America Great Again rally on Friday at The Villages Polo Club.
Supporters react as President Donald Trump speaks during his Make America Great Again rally on Friday at The Villages Polo Club. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

There are just 11 days until the end of the election, and already close to 5 million Floridians and more than 50 million Americans have cast their ballots. Democrats have cast more than a 400,000 more votes than Republicans in Florida, though that number is shrinking as more Republicans vote in person.

Trump announced that he will vote in person on Saturday in Palm Beach County.

The president acknowledged that Friday’s rally in the Sumter County conservative stronghold did not put him in front of undecided voters.

“This is a stop in The Villages to say hello to people who are with me,” Trump said, as rays of sunlight streamed through clouds that had hung overhead his entire speech.

He walked off stage shortly thereafter to board Marine 1, which had landed just feet from the rally, and headed for his night time event in Pensacola. Blaring from the speakers as he departed was Y.M.C.A., the 1978 hit by the Village People.

Charles Buckley, center, and his wife, Ann Buckley, of The Villages, settle into some outdoor seating with shaved ice at The Villages Polo Club where President Donald Trump held a rally Friday. The couple, who are ardent supporters of Trump, were visiting the rally while celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary.
Charles Buckley, center, and his wife, Ann Buckley, of The Villages, settle into some outdoor seating with shaved ice at The Villages Polo Club where President Donald Trump held a rally Friday. The couple, who are ardent supporters of Trump, were visiting the rally while celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

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