President Donald Trump alleged Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democrat bidding to become the first black governor of Florida, is “not equipped” for the job at a boisterous rally Saturday evening.
“It’s not for him,” Trump said, without elaborating further. Earlier in his speech, he had dismissed Gillum as a “radical socialist.”
According to The Hill, the remarks about Gillum ignited instant social media criticism. They are sure to intensify the debate about Trump’s rhetoric as he campaigns hard for Republicans in the final days before Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Accusations of racial animus have new urgency — particularly since, campaigning in the adjacent state of Georgia on Thursday, the President had called Stacey Abrams “not qualified” to become governor of the Peach State.
Abrams, a Democrat, would be the first black female governor in the nation’s history, if elected.
But the “not equipped” jab at Gillum was not among Trump’s biggest applause lines of the night in this Gulf Coast city.
The crowd of several thousand — assembled in an aircraft hangar beside which Air Force One landed dramatically, silhouetted against the evening sky — reacted euphorically to strident comments about immigration, law and order and the NFL.
A defense of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and a lengthy denigration of his accusers was also well-received — more evidence, perhaps, that the controversy over Kavanaugh’s confirmation has energized conservatives as much as liberals.
Trump contended that the caravan of migrants that began in Central America was able to break through Mexico’s defenses and pledged that it would not do so in the United States.
Huge cheers met his pledge to send troops to the border in response to the caravan.
Chants of “USA! USA!” broke out when Trump said that his administration was “standing up for our great national anthem” — a reference to his long-standing opposition to NFL players who take a knee to protest racial injustice.
Trump’s tone left no doubt that he is putting all his chips on the base-first strategy he believes got him elected in 2016.