Donald Trump, master of the one-liner, king of the rambling disquisition, rolled into Miami on Friday night — late, like everyone else, probably because of traffic — to deliver what has become his trademark presidential candidate speech, in which he was equal parts nostalgic raconteur, motivational speaker and plain-spoken truth-teller.
He talked about negotiating down the price of his Trump National Doral golf resort, which hosted the rally, to $145 million from $170 million. “I’ve never told this story, actually,” he said, fondly recalling how he wanted to “impress” his daughter Ivanka by scoring a discount. Protesters interrupted him three times.
He offered business advice: “Deals aren’t deals. Deals are people.” He boasted about his eye for spotting talent: “I will find the next General Patton.” He summed up his candidacy: “If I’m in, I win.”
In short, classic Trump.
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But the Republican also tackled the pressing issues of the day: his drop to second place in two Iowa polls, and his call for all presidential candidates to disavow super PACs — the political action committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money — after Trump himself severed ties with one of the groups backing him.
The polls are wrong, Trump declared — though only the ones that show him trailing Ben Carson. Just in case, Trump debuted a few jabs at Carson, the soft-spoken, retired neurosurgeon who, like Trump, is a part-time West Palm Beach resident.
Jeb Bush, Trump reiterated, is “low energy.” “But Ben Carson is super low energy, right?”
The hundreds of fervent fans standing in, yes, the Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom, shrieked with approval.
Trump then mimicked unnamed, gleeful television anchors announcing “breaking” news about Trump’s popularity dip. “They informed Ben — but he was sleeping,” Trump quipped.
When he turned to super PACs — a day after mandating that one supporting him be shuttered — Trump, a billionaire real-estate mogul, characterized the groups as sketchy operations whose donors exert too much influence on candidates.
“These super PACs are really running their campaigns,” Trump said. “Who the hell knows what happens with all the money?”
Despite musing earlier this week that he might stop talking about Bush, the former Florida governor, because Bush’s poll numbers have dropped so much, Trump couldn’t help needling his rival while standing a few miles from his Miami headquarters.
“Jeb Bush has $125 million,” Trump said. “I honestly don’t think it’s going to help him. If it helps him, then I can’t figure the whole thing out.”
Trump stayed clear of another favorite target, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whose popularity has been climbing, except for a single reference: “I’m winning Florida!” Trump proclaimed. “I’m beating Bush and Rubio!”
Though he had been expected to tout the latest additions to his Florida campaign team, Trump said nothing about his new state chairman, Sarasota Republican Party head Joe Gruters, or Gruters’ co-chair, Susie Wiles, Gov. Rick Scott’s 2010 campaign manager.
He made no mention about Univision — the Spanish-language broadcaster whose studios are next door to Trump National Doral — which wasn’t allowed into the rally on account of Trump’s lawsuit against the company for canceling his Miss Universe pageant. He dismissed the pro-immigration protesters, first with a friendly “Don’t hurt ’em” to security guards physically escorting them out of the room, and then with a more impatient, “The fourth group, I’ll say, ‘Get the hell out of here!’ ”
Many protesters were Florida International University students. A young bearded Trump fan trailed them out of the hall, recording them on his cellphone and calling them “savages.” One of the women demonstrating outside the hotel, Elizabeth Paz, was accompanied by her 9-year-old daughter and 3-year-old niece. Both girls, Paz said, had recently crossed the U.S.-Mexico border after journeying from Honduras.
Trump repeated his immigration pledge — “We will build a wall!” — and was met with rabid applause from the diverse crowd.
“In this group, I wasn’t so sure I should be talking about walls,” he said, referring to the many Hispanics present. “Let me tell you, you know who wants to stop illegal immigration more than anybody? The Hispanics that are legally in this country.”
Interviews with several Hispanics in the audience revealed many of them agree with Trump’s tough stance.
“I love Donald Trump,” said Gioconda Gutierrez, 59, of West Kendall. “He’s our only hope in this country. He’s telling the truth about all the problems in this country: immigration, the economy. Everything is a mess.”
She called herself a “legal immigrant from the beginning,” arriving from Nicaragua in 1979 — the year then-President Jimmy Carter extended a special immigration status for refugees from that country.
“The immigration that has come here over the past 20 years has been junk,” Oscar Amor, a 72-year-old Cuban American from Miami Lakes, who wore an unofficial Trump T-shirt and cap, told a friend before turning to a reporter. “Trump says things the way they are. He says what the other politicians would like to say. … Trump and the Republican Party — we’re not against immigrants. We’re for law and order.”
Trump could not have been happier with the reception.
“Wow, wow. Beautiful,” he said when he took the stage. “Nothing like Miami. Nothing! Nothing!”
Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau reporter Jeremy Wallace contributed to this report.