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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Donald Trump’s 78th birthday becomes a show of loyalty for his fans and fellow Republicans

Republicans presented the former president with a cake and gifts.

Donald Trump is spending his 78th birthday being feted by congressional Republicans, who took the stage one by one on Friday to praise the former president and gush about his prospects for retaking the White House at a Florida party in his honor. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Byron Donalds, both Florida Republicans, helped warm up the crowd of “Club 47” fan club members who will hear from Trump later in the evening at a convention center in West Palm Beach, a short drive from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

Before Trump took the stage, organizers brought out a multi-layered cake as audience members tossed red and blue balloons. The cake had separate tiers featuring 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.

It sat on a gold-colored base and remained on stage until Trump’s speech was to begin, when the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” and chanted “USA! USA!” Mary Lou and Sue Reardon both came to the event from the Villages near Ocala, about 240 miles (386 kilometers) northwest of West Palm Beach. Both were wearing US flag shirts and matching “Birthday” headbands with candles.

“We just feel like he’s our last hope,” Sue Reardon said of Trump. The event in Trump’s adopted home state is 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.

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 — displaying remarkable loyalty for a former president who was shunned by many of the same lawmakers after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

Trump birthdayA birthday cake is carried onto the stage before Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at his birthday celebration. (AP photo)

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. Trump is also now three years younger than Democratic President Joe Biden, who is 81 and doesn’t have a birthday until after Election Day in November.

To mark Trump’s birthday, Biden’s campaign compiled 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.

Things were far less confrontational when Trump was in Washington to meet with House and Senate Republicans in his first visit to Capitol Hill since the riot, which was carried out by Trump supporters seeking to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden. A room of House Republicans sang “Happy Birthday” to Trump and gifted him with a baseball and bat from the annual congressional game.

Senators later presented an American flag cake with 45 candles, referencing that Trump was the 45th president. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming then added two more candles with the numerals 4 and 7. “We’re all committed to make sure he becomes the 47th president,” Barrasso told reporters later, adding: “As he was sitting there, I pull them out, put them on. He loved it. And that was the last big applause at the end when you heard that.”

Among the senators who attended the gathering was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who endorsed Trump earlier this year despite not having spoken since 2020. Barrasso told reporters that Trump and McConnell spoke and exchanged a fist bump. Snowden, Club 47’s president, and others said they expect Trump to talk about the verdict in New York as part of his regular campaign message.

Trump will be sentenced on July 11.

“Our people are anxious to hear his expression of his commitment to move ahead. I know that he is committed to continue to move ahead no matter what the left-wing side of our country throws at him,” Snowden said. 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 October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. Lydia Maldonado, a local Hispanic activist who plans to attend Friday, said she’s frequently attended events at Club 47 and been surrounded by a crowd adorned in US flag shirts, Trump 2024 gear and US-themed costumes. Maldonado said this event is unique compared to any rally or event nationwide with the former president.

Maldonado said she’s excited to be at an event for Trump’s birthday, but she also thinks 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.

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