But on Tuesday night in Orlando, Fla., it appeared that Trump drew a larger crowd for his 2020 re-election campaign kickoff event than Obama did for a similar event in Columbus, Ohio.
Orlando’s Amway Center, which holds approximately 20,000 people, appeared to be filled to capacity Tuesday night, according to Fox News producers inside.
But when Obama launched his 2012 reelection bid with an event at Ohio State University in Columbus, that city’s fire department estimated the crowd at only around 14,000 inside an arena that held about 20,000 people, according to Obama’s campaign. The crowd was smaller than his average turnouts at comparable rallies throughout his first campaign for the 2008 election.
At that Ohio event, Obama supporters filled only about half of the arena while much of the upper deck remained empty, according to estimates by Politico.
On Tuesday night, Trump slammed “the fake news” media at the top of the Orlando event, saying they would heap negative coverage on him if he “didn’t fill up the arena,” even if there were only a few empty seats.
In the past, the Trump administration has faced allegations that it inflated the number of attendees at the president’s events, most notably on Inauguration Day, when he claimed the turnout was more than any other presidential inaugural in U.S. history.
On Tuesday, Trump supporters flocked to the arena as early as 40 hours before the rally began, with one man lining up at 2:30 a.m. Monday for a rally that began at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Trump told the crowd in Florida that he “had 120,000 requests” for free tickets to the event, a platform he used to slam the media, Democrats and even his 2016 campaign opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Florida was a strategic pick for Trump to kick off his second presidential run. The must-win state — where Trump beat Clinton in 2016 and which the New York-born president called his “second home” — seemed to give the president pause after a new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed the president trailing the 2020 Democratic frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden, by 9 percentage points in the state.
Although the poll released Tuesday comes 504 days before the November 2020 election, it’s crucial for the president to secure a win in Florida if he plans on remaining in the White House for a second term.