Viral social media posts have sparked a debate over the audience size at former President Donald Trump's recent speech at the Florida Republican Party's Freedom Summit in Kissimmee.
Despite being the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, images shared online showed numerous empty seats during his address, raising questions about his current popularity in Florida.
Trump, who spoke last at the event on Saturday, reportedly drew "the largest and most enthusiastic" crowd, according to The Washington Post.
During his speech, he confidently claimed, "We're going to win the Florida primary for the third straight time, and we're going to win the state by a landslide next November." Notably, several Florida lawmakers who switched their endorsements from Gov. Ron DeSantis to Trump joined him on stage, reinforcing the message that "Florida is Trump Country."
However, some social media users contested this narrative. Debbie Matthews, for example, shared a photo on X (formerly Twitter) showing empty seats at the back of the room, captioning it with skepticism about Trump's claim to Florida. Similarly, Peter Henlein's viral post contrasted this image with one showing a full room for DeSantis, suggesting a disparity in support.
In contrast, Trump supporters and the Trump campaign provided different images and videos showing a packed venue during his speech. Brendon Leslie, CEO of Florida's Voice, attempted to neutralize the debate by sharing photos of both Trump's and DeSantis' crowds, which he claimed were equally large.
He suggested that the varied reports were driven more by emotional bias than factual representation.
The timing of the photos might have influenced perceptions of crowd size. Leslea Snyder commented that many attendees left Trump's speech early, rushing to catch shuttles from the convention center. This exit could explain the empty seats captured in some images.
As the debate continues, Newsweek has reached out to both the Trump and DeSantis campaigns for comments on the matter. This incident highlights the polarized nature of political support in Florida, a crucial battleground state, as the 2024 presidential election draws nearer.