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Trump Marks 78th Birthday; Rips Biden, 81, as Frail, Confused

Friday, 14 June 2024 09:37 PM EDT

Donald Trump marked his 78th birthday on Friday night by addressing a fawning crowd in Florida and repeatedly dismissing his opponent in November's election, 81-year-old President Joe Biden, as too frail to handle a second term.

"Our country is being destroyed by incompetent people," said Trump, who devoted large swathes of a jovial speech to poking fun at Biden. "All presidents should have aptitude tests."

The former president addressed "Club 47" fan club members at a convention center in West Palm Beach, a short drive from the former president's Mar-a-Lago residence. As part of the festivities, organizers brought out a towering, multilayered cake as audience members tossed red and blue balloons.

Set on a gold-colored base, the cake featured separate tiers that included a "Make America Great Again" baseball cap and the Club 47 logo, an American flag, the phrase "Born in the USA on Flag Day," a depiction of Trump golfing, and the Oval Office fitted gold frames common in many Trump properties as well as Trump and Republican logos.

When Trump took the stage, the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" and chanted "USA! USA!" The layer cake was just for show. But backstage, there was a sheet cake with vanilla icing and a gold hue that was served to some members of the presumptive Republican nominee's campaign staff.

The event in Trump's adopted home state sold out of 5,000 tickets at about $35 apiece, with closer spots to the stage costing $60, according to Club 47 President Larry Snowden.

"This is the biggest birthday party I've ever had by far," Trump said.

The former president elicited cheers by listing his now-familiar campaign plans, including tackling immigration and pledging to reduce regulations, scrap environmental protections to stimulate domestic energy production, and cut taxes.

Trump endorsed early voting, casting ballots by mail, and also voting on Election Day in person, only to later note: "I actually tell our people, we don't need your vote. We've got so many votes."

Before Trump took the stage, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Byron Donalds, both Florida Republicans, helped warm up the crowd, gushing about Trump and his prospects for winning back the White House.

It was yet another strong show of support for Trump and came a day after Republicans in Congress sang their own rendition of "Happy Birthday" and presented the former president with a cake and gifts during a Thursday visit to Capitol Hill.

Even after becoming the first former president to have been convicted of a felony, Trump has tightened his grip on much of his party's base and elected officials. Next month, he is scheduled to accept his party's presidential nomination for the third time — despite facing sentencing in his hush money case on July 11.

Trump referenced his conviction on 34 felony counts on Friday, declaring, "In the end, they're not after me. They're after you and I just happened to be standing in their way."

Mary Lou and Sue Reardon both came to the event from the Villages near Ocala, about 240 miles northwest of West Palm Beach. Both were wearing U.S. flag shirts and matching "Birthday" headbands with candles.

"We just feel like he's our last hope," Sue Reardon said of Trump.

Biden will turn 82 shortly after Election Day in November. His campaign marked Trump's birthday by compiling a listing of "78 of Trump's historic ... 'accomplishments,'" with links to media coverage of policy proposals including "cutting Social Security and Medicare," Trump's presidency during GOP losses in the U.S. House and Senate, and several references to his legal cases.

"On behalf of America, our early gift for your 79th: Making sure you are never President again," Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer added to the birthday wishes.

By contrast, there was no hint of GOP disunity when Trump was in Washington to meet with House and Senate Republicans on Thursday, in his first visit to Capitol Hill since Jan. 6, 2021.

Among those attending was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who endorsed Trump earlier this year despite their not having spoken since 2020.

Club 47 is based in Palm Beach County and says on its website that the club's goal is to keep Trump's supporters "in our area connected and engaged." Trump most recently spoke to the club in October, days after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Lydia Maldonado, a local Hispanic activist, said Friday's event is unique compared to any rally nationwide with the former president and that Trump feels comfortable and familiar with this crowd since it's his hometown.

"The purpose of having this event is pretty much to let him know how much the community here loves him and how much the community supports him," Maldonado said.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Politics
Donald Trump marked his 78th birthday on Friday night by addressing a fawning crowd in Florida and repeatedly dismissing his opponent in November's election, 81-year-old President Joe Biden, as too frail to handle a second term.
donald trump, florida, birthday, biden
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2024-37-14
Friday, 14 June 2024 09:37 PM
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