U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a fierce opponent of candidate Donald Trump in 2016, was singing the praises of President Donald Trump on Saturday at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner in The Villages.
“We have a lot to be proud of,” said Rubio.
He pointed to what he called the “untold story,” of job creation, soaring consumer confidence, optimism in the small business community and manufacturing sector.
“It’s happening because we cut taxes and reduced regulation,” Rubio said.
He added that those were issues on which he campaigned for many years.
“That’s a pretty effective president,” Rubio said of his one-time nemesis.
He pointed out that in 2018, he is not on the ballot and the president is not on the ballot.
However, he said this election is critical.
“We cannot lose the House. We cannot lose the Senate,” he said.
He said that while Republicans hold a majority in both bodies, it’s a slim majority and could slip away.
Sumter County Republican Chairman John Calandro echoed the same sentiment.
“There is no room for complacency in 2018,” he said.
Calandro added that defeating U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is a top priority. His call for Nelson’s defeat drew thunderous applause. Gov. Rick Scott is widely expected to challenge Florida’s senior senator, a Democrat.
The event was also an opportunity to showcase some local hopefuls and influential leaders.
Brett Hage, a candidate to fill the Florida House seat left vacant by the death of Villager Don Hahnfeldt, led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Villager David Gee, head of Villagers for Trump, gave the invocation. He also asked for a moment of silence to remember those recently lost – Hahnfeldt, Sumter County School Board member Haydn Evans and the Rev. Billy Graham.
Villages Vice President of Community Relations Gary Lester called Rubio “an old friend” and recalled The Villages’ early support for Rubio’s successful 2010 U.S. Senate campaign.
“We are proud to have a senator who does not apologize for America,” Lester said.