Today in Orlando, hundreds of church pastors have gathered at the Hyatt Regency as part of the American Renewal Project, and later this afternoon will be joined by Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. Across the street at virtually the same time, Governor Rick Scott will address first responders and mental health professionals at a conference at the Rosen Center.
Nearby, with news helicopters already circling, and police and security officers watching across the street, about 50 LGBT activists rallied in the sweltering sun and humidity, holding signs and chanting slogans denouncing Trump and Rubio. They are outraged about the pastors’ pushing for religious freedom so close to an event that ripped their community apart.
“On the two-month anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, we are outraged that Donald Trump and Senator Rubio have the audacity to headline an extremist anti-LGBTQ event in Orlando,” the group said in a statement.
But inside, there is little said, if anything, about LGBTQ policies or attitudes. In fact, most attendees are Florida church pastors, clergy and their spouses, many of whom were abuzz about a third guest scheduled to appear: former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Of note to them, a story in FloridaPolitics.com and a poll by St. Pete Polls claiming Huckabee might run for governor in the Sunshine State.
Of course few pastors read FloridaPolitics.com religiously, but many do receive NewsMax email alerts, which dutifully carried the Huckabee news after it broke. The Newsmax link was a hot commodity as it bounced across the smartphone screens of the attendees.
“Does he have a chance?” one attendee asked.
“Seems unlikely,” said another, who mentioned he preferred Pam Bondi.
It’s important to keep in mind that the attendees of this event are not political insiders. But they do represent the grass tops of the conservative wing of the Republican party. They come for Trump and Rubio, but along the way, they are treated to a host of other speakers, including former Ohio Congressman Bob McEwen, and his entertaining yet educational “Politics: Easy as P.I.E.” speech.
A stone’s throw away, Governor Scott is scheduled to deliver remarks to a gathering of 1,200 behavioral health experts, first responders and clinicians, including several from Aspire Health Partners, which spearheaded the mental health and grief counseling efforts immediately following the Pulse tragedy.
It is not known if Scott will meet with Trump today, even though they will be speaking only a few hundred yards apart from one another at virtually the same time.