Florida GOP fights to animate Trump’s base without president

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) — Nearly 300 Republicans packed shoulder-to-shoulder maskless and sweating inside a Holiday Inn conference room this week in the heart of the Florida Panhandle to see their party’s biggest political stars not named President Donald Trump.

With Trump grounded in Washington, they chanted and cheered as the governor, the self-described “Trumpiest” Florida congressman and the president’s eldest son shared anti-Democratic conspiracy theories, attacked the media and warned that Joe Biden “is a puppet for the radical left.”

While energetic, the crowd was a far cry from the tens of thousands drawn to the president’s past rallies in this deep-red bastion of Trumpism, where the president’s dominant performance four years ago helped deliver Florida, and with it, the White House.

“I’d like to see President Trump. Don Jr. is fine,” said Rick Scott, a 64-year-old retired construction manager who joined the modest crowd in Panama City Beach

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