Trump Packs Raucous USF Sun Dome
A raucous sell-out crowd greeted Donald Trump Friday night at the Sun Dome at the University of South Florida in Tampa. An estimated 10,000 people filled the arena to capacity, while several thousand others were turned away at the gate.
The Republican presidential candidate took aim at a possible Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as key primary rivals such as Ted Cruz - whom Trump challenged the crowd to, "find out where he gets his money," and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, whom Trump said is "asleep at the wheel" and "a total stiff."
And fresh off his first win Tuesday in New Hampshire, Trump took some shots at the winner of the Democratic primary: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
"I never thought we'd see the day in our country when a Communist - because that's really, when you think about it - when a Communist is the leading Democrat," Trump told the crowd of Sanders, who calls himself a Democratic Socialist. "We're going to have a communist against an entrepreneur. I kind of like the entrepreneur, right?"
Dennis Kokott stood outside the arena after listening to Trump's hour-long campaign speech. The St. Petersburg resident says he's a Trump supporter, but hasn't made a decision on who will get his vote.
"So, I still haven't made a final decision but it's interesting to come and see what he has to say," he said. "I hear everybody out - Republicans, Democrats, keep an open mind and the jury's still out. But I like everything I hear and tonight kind of reinforced that."
Before the event, several dozen people protested outside against what they say is Trump's xenophobic stances.
One of the protestors was Torie Stratis, a USF international studies major from Orlando and member of the USF Students for a Democratic Society.
"We're out here protesting Donald Trump and his racist, queer-phobic, anti-Muslim policies that he wants to implement," she said.
After the event, USF junior Veronica Jordan said she never even considered voting for Trump before the rally - but that might be changing.
"I do see him more as a kinder person, actually," she said. "He seems more real than he does on TV. I saw a little bit of nicer side of him, so it definitely has me thinking."
Her friend, Dominique Newcombe, is a freshman who just turned 18. She said she is ready to vote for the first time.
"He's not as scary in person," she said. "To be honest, I was terrified of him before I met him - I wasn't sure there was anybody that he liked. I'm just scared that he's got such a temper - that just really scares me to have that kind of temperament in a president, but I definitely like a lot of his ideas."
Newcombe says she appreciates Trump's statements on supporting veterans, since her father was in the service.
Friday's rally was Trump's only scheduled campaign stop in Florida before heading back to South Carolina, where the GOP primary is being held on Feb. 20.
But he's expected to pay a lot of attention to Florida and it's winner-take-all Republican primary, which will be held March 15th.