tca/dpa/GNA – When President Donald Trump leaves the White House for the final time Wednesday, he will board Air Force One and head for Palm Beach International Airport, where he’ll be greeted by the warm embrace of his South Florida loyalists as he heads into his post-presidential life.
Trump’s strongest supporters are organizing crowds to greet his motorcade on its route to Mar-a-Lago, the private Palm Beach club he calls home. And when Joe Biden is sworn in at noon as the nation’s 46th president, Trump should be firmly situated in a state where his allies occupy some of the most powerful positions in government, media and politics.
But as the twice-impeached Trump and some of his adult children plan to settle in Florida after four long years in Washington, much is still unsettled, and the full fallout of a January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob has yet to be determined.
“The president will unfortunately encounter both love and hate when he returns to Florida tomorrow,” Republican strategist Karen Giorno, a senior adviser to Trump’s 2016 Florida campaign, said in a Tuesday interview.
Trump’s first impression of his new life could be somewhat comforting for a man described by confidants as increasingly isolated and unpredictable in his final days in office.
Though early talk of Trump throwing a celebration Wednesday in South Florida appears to have fizzled, Republican activists are gathering the president’s supporters to greet him along shut-down streets.
And in a state run by Republicans — including a governor who rose to power with the help of Trump’s endorsement and a newly reelected state party chairman who co-chaired Trump’s 2016 Florida campaign — Trump should expect a similar welcome among the GOP.
“President Trump soundly won the state of Florida twice, and he is sure to get the enthusiastic reception he deserves after the most successful presidential term in American history,” said Boris Epshteyn, a strategic adviser to Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign.
In Palm Beach, Trump will be among friends, including retired conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. Newsmax, an emerging right-wing media outlet, is based out of nearby Boca Raton.
And under the Trump presidency, Florida has become something of a haven for Republican gatherings. Groups like Turning Point USA and the Conservative Political Action Conference have located their conferences in the state, and the Republican National Committee just held its winter conference in Amelia Island in Northeast Florida.
Nor is Trump expected to come to Florida alone.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, recently purchased a lot with her husband on the exclusive Miami-Dade island of Indian Creek, leading to talk that she may attempt to run for statewide office as soon as 2022. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the couple has also leased a condo in Surfside.
Donald Trump Jr., is also reportedly looking at real estate in South Florida. And a person familiar with the plans of Trump’s youngest daughter, Tiffany Trump, said she is looking for a place to rent in one of Miami-Dade County’s coastal communities.
But exactly what soon-to-be former President Trump will do once he gets to South Florida remains unclear. He’s taken steps to remain relevant in Republican politics, but strategists who spoke to the Herald said the most predictable outcome of Trump’s retirement is that he will yet again be unpredictable.
“I don’t expect him to have a quiet retirement,” said Giorno, who thinks Trump ought to do more to draw attention to his accomplishments as president. “He’s a doer by nature. And he ought to prove that he was a great president by focusing on all the positive things he did for the country.”
Trump’s exit from Washington won’t insulate him from the turmoil that surrounded him there through his term, culminating in the January 6 riot at the Capitol instigated by a mob that gathered outside the White House to hear Trump’s continued falsehoods about elections fraud.
Following the insurrection, Trump was largely sequestered in the White House — a trend that could continue into his life after presidency and worsen depending on the outcome of a potential Senate impeachment trial. It’s not clear whether Trump would be convicted in a trial.
Trump is also without his favorite megaphone — Twitter — after the site and others banned him from their platforms due to his comments following the riot at the Capitol. Whether he will be reinstated, and how and whether Trump will be able to communicate his thoughts once he’s out of office, remain big questions as strategists and politicians watch to see whether Trump retains his base of support among Republican voters.
“Many of these grassroots voters who played an instrumental role in President Trump becoming president in the first place … may turn away from the president,” said Matt Terrill, a former Republican Party of Florida consultant and chief of staff to Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign. “But many of them may not, even with impeachment taking shape.“
Trump also faces a somewhat ambiguous future at home. Some neighbors have questioned whether Trump can reside at Mar-a-Lago given an agreement he signed in the 1990s that, in exchange for the town of Palm Beach’s approval to rezone his residential property as a private club, he promised that no one would spend more than 21 days at the property.
Palm Beach Town Manager Kirk Blouin told the Miami Herald in December that the town had yet to receive clear evidence that Trump intended to live at Mar-a-Lago after his term ended, though Trump long ago listed the property on his voter registration and declared it his official place of residency. Blouin did not respond to an email Tuesday seeking an update.
What does seem certain is that Democrats will continue to go after Trump, who Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz said “will leave office the way he came — in shame.”
And Palm Beach County Republicans will welcome him with open arms.
“We just want to give him a big homecoming and let him know he has family and friends here in the Republican party in Palm Beach County who supported him through his presidency and two presidential campaigns,” said Michael Barnett, chairman of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County. “We’d rather have him in Washington, but we’re very happy to have him home, too.”