Donald Trump campaign for change draws 6,000 to Robarts Arena
SARASOTA -- Thousands gathered Saturday in Sarasota to hear the man they believe is going to make America great again.
They waited in lines for blocks, before more than 6,000 people poured into Robarts Arena to hear Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speak.
An elephant with the campaign slogan -- TRUMP make America great again -- greeted the excited crowd. Inside, musical acts, comedians and more entertained the crowd.
Supporters patiently sat in bleachers or waited behind fences near a field behind the arena.
When the Trump helicopter circled overhead before making a descent, the crowd started cheering.
Trump chanted "USA, USA, USA" as he thanked those in the overflow crowd.
Trump then invited a handful of children to take a ride in his helicopter, before telling crowd real change is needed. He thanked the thousands waiting outside trying to get in, telling them all he loved them. "We are going to make America great," Trump said. "I think we have the potential to do it with common sense, intelligence and other things, and great people."
He criticized the media, calling them a "bunch of phonies" who would not accurately report about the crowd gathered.
Garry and Patricia Arnold of Port Charlotte were among the thousands waiting to hear Trump talk about change.
"It's time for change," each said. "And evidently we're not the only ones who think so."
Paul Turner, 68, of Bradenton sat patiently in his seat more than two hours before Trump's arrival.
"I just want to see him live and hear him talk about what he is going to do for our country and for veterans," Turner said. "He's my kind of guy.
Turner said he likes that Trump doesn't concern himself with being politically correct.
"He says what we are all thinking but are too afraid to say out loud," he said. "He's not even going to accept the salary when he's president, the first president in history not to."
Trump was greeted by a roar of applause and thousands of supporters, many of whom waved campaign signs.
"I'm not mean. I'm nice. I'm just tired of seeing gross incompetence and stupidity," Trump told supporters.
Hillary Clinton doesn't have the endurance and stamina to be president, he said.
The Republican candidate cited his lead in the polls in many states -- including Florida where he said he was ahead of a sitting senator and a former governor.
"Bush is in favor of Common Core. I don't even mention him anymore," Trump said. "How can you be in favor of Common Core? In the entire world we are No. 28 in education, but we are No. 1 in spending per pupil."
Third World countries are ahead of the United States in education, which needs to change, he said.
Plan for migrants
"We are going to build a wall. It's going to be a real wall. It's going to be a great wall and Mexico's going to pay for the wall, believe me," Trump said. "I love Mexicans. They're great people. They're great workers and you know what? I am going to win the Hispanic vote."
He also said he will win the African-American vote.
"I'm going to cut taxes for everybody, including the middle class," Trump told the crowd, which roared with enthusiasm. "We are going to put H&R Block out of business."
Trump made many other promises, including eliminating Obamacare and terrorism.
"Terrorism happens when you have weak leadership," he said. "We are going to be strong again. Having a strong military is the cheapest thing we can do."
He also promised to bring trade and jobs back.
"I've got the best business people. Some are nice, some are not but do we care? No," Trump said. "The United States leadership is stupid, and it's not going to be that way."
The crowd inside quickly dispersed as Trump made his way to address those standing outside again.
Daniel Spilker, 33, still clutching one of the Trump signs volunteers distributed inside Robarts Arena, gave a typically positive review.
"I thought he was straightforward," he said. "That's why I like him. He's an honest person. He's not politically correct."
It was his first political rally and he had a great time, he added.
"I only came because of Trump," he said.
Amy Hertzberg, 37, of Valrico, was all smiles as she left the crowded arena.
"I'm excited and I hope Trump wins," she said. "We need to make America great again."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.