SANFORD, Fla. (CN) — President Donald Trump boasted about his health and attacked his Democratic rival in front of thousands of supporters in Florida Monday during his first campaign rally since he was released from the hospital where he received treatment for the coronavirus.
“I feel so powerful,” Trump told the largely maskless crowd on the tarmac of the Orlando Sanford International Airport. “I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there. I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll the kiss the guys and the beautiful women. Everybody. I’ll just give you a big fat kiss.”
Before Trump boarded Air Force One Monday, his doctor announced the president tested negative for Covid-19 using an antigen test. Trump declared in Florida that he was now immune from the coronavirus and the audience chanted, “We love you!”
The president spoke forcefully for an hour and did not seem to be suffering from shortness of breath — one of the known complications from the respiratory disease.
“Fortunately I’m not an old person. I’m very young and in great shape,” said Trump, who is 74. “We are going to take whatever the hell they gave me and we’re going to distribute it out to all the hospitals.”
Trump canceled a rally in Sanford on Oct. 2 after his coronavirus diagnosis.
Sanford is located on the important I-4 corridor between Orlando and Daytona Beach, which covers one of the state’s largest media markets and typically has more undecided voters than any part of Florida.
Trump’s visit comes just a few days after Vice President Mike Pence visited the Villages, a large retirement community in Central Florida, and held a roundtable with Latinos in Orlando.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, also visited the state last week.
Florida is a must-win battleground state for Trump, who changed his residency from New York to the Sunshine State late last year. The president narrowly won Florida in 2016 by less than 1% of the vote.
According to a USA Today analysis of the latest polls, Biden is leading the presidential race by four points in Florida. A poll conducted by University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab released last week found Biden up by six points in the Sunshine State.
Trump dismissed the polling.
“Florida loves us,” Trump told the crowd on Monday. “We have the fake news saying we are tied in Florida, I don’t understand it.”
Some of his supporters agreed.
“They said the same thing in 2016,” said Robert Aldridge, a 42-year-old from Orlando. “Everyone I know is voting for Trump.”
Trump largely stuck to red meat messages popular with his base during the hour-long speech, tackling illegal immigration, rebuilding the economy, and criticizing protesters in Portland, Oregon.
“Next year is going to be the best year yet, economically,” Trump boasted.
The thousands of rally goers did not seem worried about being packed onto the small tarmac with very little social distancing where the majority of attendees were not wearing masks.
“I’m not really worried about it,” said Mary Littles, 53. “We’re outside. The cases are coming down. Those who are worried can stay home.”
Florida’s cases of coronavirus have come down over the last two months after a huge spike in July and August.
The Florida Department of Health’s latest update reported 2,208 new coronavirus cases statewide on Monday. The positivity rate of new cases is just over 4%.
Last month, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis lifted many of his executive orders that had limited capacity in restaurants and bars, a move praised by Trump on Monday.
“You’re open and open for business,” Trump said about Florida.
“It’s risky, but you got to get out sometimes,” he added later.
On Saturday, three Floridians filed a lawsuit against Trump and the airport seeking to cancel the rally.
“His attendance at a [Make America Great Again] event while infected with the deadly virus, accompanied by a huge entourage of infected and/or exposed individuals, along with the likely huge mass of unmasked exposed and infected individuals emboldened by his disregard for safety precautions at the debate represents an extreme danger to the Seminole County community and plaintiffs,” the complaint states.
In a statement released Monday, Biden also attacked Trump’s decision to hold the rally.
“President Trump comes to Sanford today bringing nothing but reckless behavior, divisive rhetoric, and fear mongering,” Biden said. “But, equally dangerous is what he fails to bring: no plan to get this virus that has taken the lives of over 15,000 Floridians under control, no plan to protect Floridians’ health care amid his attacks against the ACA, and certainly no plan to mitigate the economic impact the pandemic is having on families across Central Florida.”
Florida’s early voting sites open next week. Already, supervisors of elections have sent out more than 5.5 million mail-in ballots — 2.5 million to registered Democrats and 1.7 million to Republicans.
Of those, 1.6 million Floridians have already voted by mail with almost twice the number of Democrats as Republicans returning the ballots.