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Trump Goes Back To Campaign Mode In Florida


President Trump is spending this President's Day weekend at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Florida. He's meeting today with several candidates to replace national security adviser Mike Flynn who was fired this past week. Yesterday, Trump took time out from the affairs of state to attend a campaign-style rally with his supporters in Melbourne, Fla. As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, it was a chance for Trump to relive his election victory after a rocky few weeks in the White House.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Rocky isn't just a figure of speech here. Someone actually threw a rock - or something - at the president's motorcade as he made his way to Mar-a-Lago Friday afternoon. Trump found a warmer welcome Saturday after a 25-minute flight up the coast. Air Force One taxied to a cavernous airport hangar where thousands of people were waiting to cheer the president on.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm here because I want to be among my friends and among the people.


HORSLEY: During the presidential campaign, Trump often bragged about - and sometimes exaggerated - the size of his rally crowds. The packed house last night was another vindication for Trump after four sometimes isolated weeks in the White House.


TRUMP: Look at that. All the way outside of this - this is as big a hangar as you get - all the way outside, way back to the fences. Amazing.

HORSLEY: These supporters, many of whom waited hours in the Florida sun to see the president, are unfazed by Trump's setbacks - the firing of his national security adviser, the withdrawal of his nominee for labor secretary, the court battle that's temporarily suspended his travel ban. Alvina Pitches, who came to the rally draped in an American flag, says Trump is doing just what he said he would.

ALVINA PITCHES: Oh, I think he's doing terrific. I think he - they - you know, the press isn't giving him an honest assessment. But I think he's doing a really good job of trying to keep his promises and make our country great again.

HORSLEY: Patrick McWallace, who taped a Trump bumper sticker to his straw hat, also likes what he's seen so far, though McWallace says Trump might have been a little more cautious in the way he rolled out the travel ban.

PATRICK MCWALLACE: But other than that, I mean, I think it's beautiful. Man, it's exactly what the silent majority wanted.

HORSLEY: Trump won this county last fall with 57 percent of the vote. But a not-so-silent minority was also on hand to protest the president's visit. Kathy McGraw-Davids stood across the street from the airport with a hand-lettered sign saying this is not who we are.

KATHY MCGRAW-DAVIDS: I can't sit by. I have to stand up when I see my country disappearing. He's not what I grew up believing America is. America is diverse and inclusive and kind. And the immigration raids and the travel ban - I just can't sit quietly back and act like that's OK.

HORSLEY: Trump made no apologies at the rally. He promised to rewrite the travel ban in the coming days to address concerns of the federal courts. But he also chastised the judges who ruled against him. And he defended a crackdown on criminal immigrants.


TRUMP: Get them the hell out of here. Bring them back to where they came from.


HORSLEY: Trump says immigration enforcement officers are simply targeting drug dealers and gang members, though others have also been caught up in the dragnet. As he did during the campaign, Trump dismissed negative news accounts of his administration, saying supporters can draw their own conclusions. Andrea Colson, who carried a sign saying redheads for Trump, thinks the president was likely encouraged by the big turnout last night. She says his supporters will be too.

ANDREA COLSON: So much of the time, the narrative sounds like - oh, it's so bad - he's done this wrong; he's done that wrong; he's a failure. I think he wanted to give everybody a chance to actually see - no, the truth is he does have this much support. And he does have this many people that love him.

HORSLEY: That could be a tonic for the president as he returns to the hard work of governing next week.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Melbourne, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.