For those who somehow missed candidate Donald Trump’s raucous 2016 campaign rallies, Trump — now the 45th president of the United States — reprised most of his greatest hits Saturday in a campaign-style appearance before 9,000 cheering supporters at an airplane hangar.
There were no shots at vanquished 2016 foe Hillary Clinton or “Lock her up” chants from the crowd. But Trump riffed 2016-style on the “dishonest media” and its “fake news,” pledged to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, said he’d “drain the swamp” in Washington and promised to replace Obamacare with “much better health care at a much lower cost.”
Trump also threw in a few new elements — including bringing a Boynton Beach man, Gene Huber, on stage with him after seeing TV reports that Huber arrived at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport at 4 a.m. to be first in line for the scheduled 5 p.m. rally.
“That’s my guy right over there. Come here,” Trump said after spotting Huber in the crowd.
“I’m not worried about him,” Trump said to his security detail.
Trump surrendered the microphone and encouraged Huber, a 47-year-old car salesman wearing a black T-shirt from Trump’s inauguration, to say a few words.
“Mr. President, thank you, sir. We the people, our movement, is the reason why our president of the United States is standing in front of us today,” Huber began. “When President Trump during the election promised all these things that he was going to do for us, I knew he was going to do this for us.”
“A star is born,” Trump said as Huber left the stage and the crowd chanted “U.S.A! U.S.A!”
“I wouldn’t say that Secret Service was thrilled with that, but we know our people, right?” Trump told the crowd.
Huber, who did a round of TV interviews after the rally, said he drove to Melbourne on Friday, stayed in a hotel near the airport, ordered Chinese food and went to bed early. He got up at 2:30 a.m. Saturday so he could be at the head of the line.
“I’m still dreaming. I can’t believe it,” Huber told reporters of his encounter with the president.
“I was almost like light-headed. I’m a bowler. I’ve bowled many 300s before. It’s almost like bowling your 12th strike and you’re shaking up there and trying to stay as calm as possible. That’s how it seemed to me up there,” Huber said.
As he did at many campaign rallies in 2016, Trump’s plane rolled up to the event as the sound system in the hangar blared the theme from the 1997 movie “Air Force One.”
This time, however, the plane really was Air Force One.
The White House said taxpayers did not foot the cost for the brief trip from Palm Beach International Airport to Melbourne. Instead, Saturday’s event was officially a production of the 2020 campaign that Trump set up in paperwork he filed with the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 20 — his first day as president.
Aboard Air Force One on the flight to Melbourne, Trump was asked if it’s early to be holding a campaign event.
“Life is a campaign. Making our country great again is a campaign. For me it’s a campaign, to make America great again is absolutely a campaign,” Trump replied.
The president and first lady Melania Trump arrived around 5:30, descending the steps of Air Force One after the music switched from the movie theme to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”
“I’m here because I want to be among my friends and among the people. This is a great movement,” Trump told the crowd.
“I also want to speak to you without the filter of the fake news…They just don’t want to report the truth and they’ve been calling us wrong now for two years. They don’t get it. But they’re starting to get it,” Trump said.
Trump, who is staying at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach for the third consecutive weekend, left in the morning and spent more than four hours at his Trump International Golf Club in unincorporated West Palm Beach, though the White House did not confirm he was golfing.
Air Force One returned to Palm Beach International Airport from Melbourne about 7:45 p.m. Saturday and the motorcade carrying Trump and the first lady returned to Mar-a-Lago without incident and watched by a smattering of supporters along Southern Boulevard.
Trump plans to talk Sunday with at least four candidates for national security adviser, a post that became vacant when Michael Flynn resigned Monday amid questions about his contacts during the transition with the Russian government.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump will talk with Army strategist Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, former United Nations ambassador John Bolton, acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg, West Point superintendent Lt. Col. Robert Caslen and “potentially more.”
Trump also plans to have a Sunday health care strategy session with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.
Outside Saturday’s rally in Melbourne, a crowd of anti-Trump protesters, appearing to number in the hundreds, gathered across the street from the airport. Many wore the pink hats popularized by last month’s women’s marches that drew millions around the U.S.
“President Trump is such a great jobs president, he’s even created jobs for some of the professional protesters out there,” said freshman U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. “They know they can’t intimidate Donald Trump, so they’re trying to intimidate Republican members of Congress not to support his agenda…We will not be intimidated.”
Ellen Buchholz of Melbourne said she came to the rally to encourage other Trump supporters around the country.
“I think it’s very important for the core voters that voted for him between the coasts to see on the news that there’s still a lot of support for him despite a lot of the nonsense you see on a lot of channels,” said Buchholz, who said Democrats and “many Republicans” have been treating Trump unfairly.
“They’re just not allowing him to do his job,” Buchholz said.
Mayur Mendoza drove to the rally from Immokalee and wore a “Deal With It” T-shirt depicting Trump in sunglasses.
“The media’s trying to demoralize and demonize Trump and his supporters. This is a reminder of what we’re all about,” said Mendoza. Mendoza, who is of Mexican heritage, said he supports Trump’s immigration stance and doesn’t think some of Trump’s harsh rhetoric was anti-Mexican.
“I tell the people that I know, if you’re not a rapist, if you’re not a criminal, don’t worry about it — he’s not talking about you,” Mendoza said.
Staff writer Justin Price and the White House press pool contributed to this story.