WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Friday took a swing through Florida, a state critical to his reelection prospects.
Trump delivered a campaign speech to Florida sheriffs in Tampa. He has pointed to a surge in crime in some of the nation's largest cities with Democratic mayors and has threatened to send federal law enforcement to protect what he describes as besieged communities.
Speaking soon after a federal appeals court threw out Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's death sentence for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing because of potential juror bias, Trump attacked Democratic rival Joe Biden for his shifting position on capital punishment. The former vice president, who supported the death penalty through much of his long political career, last year called for eliminating it on the federal level and incentivizing states to do the same.
"They protect criminals and Biden opposes the death penalty, even for cop killers and child murderers," Trump told hundreds of supporters who showed up to hear him speak at the sheriffs' event on the Tampa International Airport tarmac.
"I see in Boston, where you have the animal that killed so many people during the Boston Marathon, they just sent this conviction for the death penalty back to the lower courts. ... It's ridiculous."
Before departing Washington, Trump again claimed that Biden supports the defunding of police.
He met at the White House with members of the National Association of Police Organizations Leadership, which endorsed former President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 but is backing Trump's reelection bid.
"Your choice is me or somebody that has no clue what they're doing," Trump told them.
In Florida, Trump also participated in a meeting to review the response to covid-19 and the state's preparedness for Hurricane Isaias, which was centered in the Bahamas on Friday and expected to move near South Florida today.
Florida has experienced a spike in coronavirus cases and reported 253 new covid-19 deaths Thursday, the highest daily count so far and the third record day in a row.
As a candidate for the White House, Trump promised that he would "immediately" replace former President Barack Obama's health care law with a plan of his own that would provide "insurance for everybody," but he has yet to reveal his plan. Trump said during an exchange with reporters that he was preparing to unveil his plan "soon," suggesting perhaps as early as Sunday.
Trump also spoke to supporters at a fundraiser that was closed to reporters before heading back to Washington on Friday evening.
Trump's campaign points to its organizational advantages and suggests that the pandemic outlook is improving. Trump has already reserved $36 million in fall advertising in Florida alone, which is by far his largest advertising investment in any battleground state.
Nick Trainer, the campaign's director of battleground strategy, predicted that the coronavirus situation would ultimately become an asset for Trump's reelection.
"President Trump's leadership on coronavirus has put us in a strong position to protect vulnerable Americans and rebuild our economy," he said. "Where we're at today isn't where we'll be in November."
Information for this article was contributed by Darlene Superville and Alexandra Jaffe of The Associated Press.