As more than 10,000 supporters of President Donald Trump awaited his arrival at the BB&T Center in Sunrise for a campaign rally Tuesday night, Brock Cline showed up to the exceedingly red party in a green kilt and a bagpipe in hand.
"We just wanna come here and play and see if President Trump will let us play inside in front of everybody,” said the Boca Raton resident while waiting outside in the arena parking lot. He and his wife Toni broke out into song, playing Amazing Grace for a crowd that gathered around.
“We support all of our presidents, all 45 of them. Even if we don’t vote for them,” Cline said. “But President Trump, we support him up to the gills. All the way.”
The crowd came from across Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, as well as other parts of the state and nation.
Trump's campaign deemed the rally a “homecoming” after the president changed his official residency from New York to Palm Beach in September. The event also marked the latest attention he’s giving to Florida ahead of the 2020 election.
"He’s gonna carry Florida whether he lives here or not, like he did last time,” Miami resident Eric Tonaini said. “But the fact that he lives here now, it’s gonna be even easier."
Across a marshy grass median, hundreds of Democratic voters and activists staged a counter rally in a designated protest area. They held up a giant inflatable Trump baby and signs reading, “Impeach Trump” and “Jail to the Chief!” They suggested Trump’s appearance in Broward could also help galvanize opponents in South Florida.
“Anything that irks and gets his attention is something that we certainly can do and we're going to do it every opportunity," David Fishkind said as he held one of the strings for the Baby Trump Balloon. "We're going to exercise our First Amendment rights, and hopefully do it safely."
The Sunrise rally came after Trump kicked off his campaign in Orlando in June and held another rally in the Florida Republican stronghold of The Villages in October. The President plans to return to South Florida on Dec. 7 to headline an annual Israeli-American Council summit in Hollywood and attend a Republican Party of Florida fundraiser in Miami-Dade County.
Democratic presidential candidates, by comparison, have made few stops in the swing state, focusing more on early Democratic primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
During his nearly two-hour speech on Tuesday, Trump delivered common refrains that the American economy is booming and that his administration is securing borders. He applauded his Florida Republican allies as he brought Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state leaders onstage.
The raucous crowd in the packed arena also booed as Trump railed against the media and spent nearly 20 minutes slamming the current House impeachment inquiry as a deranged witch hunt. He bashed Democrats as crooked liars seeking to overturn the 2016 election.
"The failed Washington establishment is trying to stop me because I'm fighting for you and because we're winning," Trump said, referring to the House investigation into whether he pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
Outside the rally, impeachment was also on the minds of many of his supporters.
"Everything he’s been doing has been great. Democrats have been just sitting back there, wanting to impeach him. That’s all they’re doing,” Coral Springs resident Bob Lapointe said. "They can’t do anything, so they gotta do something, so that’s the only thing they know how to do.”
Jessica Rayo of Hollywood added that she has not seen any evidence that warrants his impeachment.
“We watch everything and we read. But whenever we see the proof and everything they have — it’s unfair. I don’t think it’s true what they say about him,” Rayo said.
For other attendees including Barbara Kahanek, the rally was another stop as they attend Trump rallies across the country.
Kahanek arrived at the BB&T Center at 8 a.m. Tuesday to sell Make American Great and Trump merchandise. The Houston native said she donates 30 percent of her proceeds to the Trump campaign.
“They can distribute it out to anyone who needs help. So we can take back Congress, and go 2020, 2024 and you never know what’s going beyond that,” Kahanek said.
The rally was notable given Broward is one of Florida’s biggest Democratic strongholds. One local Republican official recently attributed Trump’s focus on the county to its large red base. During Tuesday’s rally, Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, added that the nearly 250,000 Republicans in Broward could secure a Trump win in Florida.
“This is an amazing crowd for Broward,” Parscale said, noting the BB&T Center was nearly at capacity. “They said I’m crazy to have a 20,000 person arena in Broward County.”