Donald Trump Jr. traveled to Orlando on Wednesday to show face for a good friend of his father's: Republican candidate for governor Ron DeSantis, whose speech at the B.B. King's Blues Club on International Drive consisted of bitter attacks against his primary opponent Adam Putnam and warm praise for President Trump.
"I'm a principled, proven conservative leader, and I am endorsed by the president of the United States," U.S. Rep. DeSantis said.
The gubernatorial candidate is facing off against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a Republican primary for Florida's governor. Both candidates show overt support for the president, but DeSantis is the only one blessed with a formal endorsement.
When he wasn't attacking Putnam, DeSantis touched on his ideas for school safety, spoke highly of president Trump's immigration policies advocating for E-verify, denounced the common core program and reiterated his support for term limits. Over 1,000 supporters showed up to listen.
"Adam Putnam – although I respect him – he is somebody who is a career politician," DeSantis said. "He is a transactional Republican, and he is the choice for every insider up in Tallahassee."
"He's the crown prince of crony capitalism. He's the toast of Tallahassee."
Largely missing from the candidate's speech was any mention of the Second Amendment or the outrage over arming school teachers. DeSantis, who earned an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, espoused an idea he thinks would keep schools safe.
"One thing I think we need to do is, let's harness all these retired police and military we have here in Florida ... Those folks can help provide security for schools," he said.
DeSantis' wife Casey DeSantis, Rep. Matt Gaetz from Florida's Panhandle area and conservative commentator Dan Bongino joined Trump Jr. as rally headliners for DeSantis.
The recent algae bloom that triggered a state of emergency declaration from Gov. Scott was an angle DeSantis used to attack Putnam.
"Dan mentioned what's going on with the water in Florida. We have boaters, we have fisherman, we have people who enjoy our natural resources," he said.
"And yet you've had an unprecedented bloom of toxic algae spewing out of Lake Okeechobee. Adam Putnam is not going to do anything about it. Why? Because he's in the pocket of big sugar."
Roughly ten minutes into his speech, a group of seven protestors from the Florida Student Power Network, Dream Defenders and the Florida Immigrant Coalition erupted in protest, screaming "Ron DeSantis! You took money from Geo!," referring to Geo Group, the private prison company and ICE contractor that largely supports Republican candidates through its political action wing. "Geo profits from tearing families apart!"
The demonstrators were squelched out by police officers as rally supporters shot back, aggressively chanting "USA, USA." DeSantis said "I guess we had George Soros in the house with us," insinuating the protestors were somehow paid to be there.
When Trump Jr. took the stage after DeSantis, he spoke for 20 minutes about his father's election success in 2016 and reiterated his template for assailing Democrats.
"If Donald Trump said that he was in favor of oxygen, they would suffocate themselves to say he's wrong," he said about progressives.
Amping up the campaign talk, Trump praised DeSantis for championing small business interests and being a longtime supporter of President Trump.
"Ron DeSantis was there from day one. He got it, he saw it," he said. "He was with us when it didn't really behoove him to be with us."
"We want small business to win," Trump added. "Ron can do such a good job with this state. He can make sure it will run on the same principles we've been talking about."
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