'I've been with him since he came down the escalator': Trump supporters tout immigration and economy at president's 2020 re-election rally

In Orlando, Trump supporters say president's record on economy and immigration have them coming back for more

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Walking into downtown Orlando ahead of Donald Trump’s much-hyped 2020 re-election rally is like entering a different world, complete with its own Trump-based economy.

With roads closed off for blocks in any red direction, a sea of red hats and Trump flags could be seen on Tuesday afternoon, as supporters of the president waited for their chance in the muggy Florida weather to see a man who has shaken American politics to its core.

As thunderstorms replaced sunshine, the mostly white crowd in Orlando was joined by street vendors creating their own micro economy. MAGA hats were on sale for $10 a piece, and a pop-up “TRUMP STORE” offered up all sorts of merchandise from shirts, to flags, to pins with a message that distils to, roughly, the following: Donald Trump is president, and everyone needs to deal with it.

“I’ve been with him since he came down the escalator,” said 73-year-old Connie French, a retired school guidance counsellor, referencing the infamous descent that Mr Trump took in 2015 on a golden moving stairwell in Trump Tower Manhattan, where he announced his bid for the presidency.

The mood in Orlando was markedly optimistic, the kind of outlook you might expect from an underdog team who, after years of disappointment, suddenly found themselves victorious.

And, for Mr Trump’s supporters, the last couple of years have been pretty great, they say.

Name the issue, and they’ll tell you that Mr Trump has served the American people better than any who came before – never mind the fact that tax cuts are nothing new to American politics, nor is the immigration debate, nor is Mr Trump the first president to ever take a meeting with a Chinese leader.

“He is keeping America free. He’s protecting our constitutional rights. He’s trying to protect our country by closing the borders and keeping us safe,” said Wanda Albritton, a supporter from Florida who ducked under a shop awning as a brief thunderstorm rolled through. “They lowered taxes. I mean what else can I say? Business is booming, our stocks are going up.”

Mr Trump’s entry into the 2020 race – a re-election entrance that actually follows after dozens of campaign rallies since becoming president – does indeed come with some strong economic signals, even if the economy isn’t the strongest it has been in the history of the country, as he frequently claims.

Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to crowd before his announcement of his 2015 campaign

The stock market has kept on climbing to record highs, as the US has experienced a strong economic expansion that first started during the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, unemployment levels have dipped as well, to 3.6 per cent according to recent figures – a low not seen since 1969.

“I’d say the people who support Trump are mostly concerned about the economy,” said Mike Thomas, a 61-year-old Republican committeeman in the state who lives due east of Orlando in Brevard County. “And they’re pretty happy with the way it’s gone.”

But Mr Trump’s supporters in Orlando said that the economy is only part of his appeal. The president, they said, is keeping true to his promise to put America First. They like that he has imposed new tariffs on China, and that he has opened up lines of communication with North Korea. And, they really like that they have seen a president who has put such a laser focus on immigration.

Of course, they also like that Mr Trump says what he wants.

“He’s not worried about being politically correct,” said Rich Moppin, 55, who works in air conditioning installation, said. “He keeps his promises, that’s big right there.”

But in a country like the United States, where hustling for a buck is encouraged, it should come as no surprise that not everyone was setting up shop in Orlando because they love Mr Trump.

Jay Hayley, a 16-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, said that he woke up early to head to Orlando to sell a few hats. He’s a Democrat, but he knows a good opportunity, and said he hawks merchandise at some of the top presidential campaigns when he can.

And so, perhaps channelling the business acumen of the president who was set to take stage that evening, Jay cut his prices for MAGA hats from $20 to $10, hoping for an edge over the competition.

“I’m here to make some money,” Jay said, as the waved MAGA hats beneath an overpass.

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