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With 16 days before election, Trump’s Newport Beach visit shows stark divide

As President Donald Trump came to Newport Beach Sunday for a private fundraiser, hundreds of people – many who support Trump, many who don’t – lined local streets to raise flags, voices and car horns to make some political points.

But they didn’t raise fists or weapons.

Nobody knows if the non-violent turnout in Orange County was a preview of how America will react after Nov. 3, when voters elect either Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden for president. What is clear is that the political divide in the county — as in the country — is wide.

Consider the different reactions Sunday to a glimpse of the president:

Around midday, when the presidential motorcade zoomed over a bridge leading to the fundraiser, Trump, maskless, poked his head out of a limo window and waved. For Trump supporters, on the north side of the bridge, the sighting was reason to cheer. For critics, on the bridge’s south side, the sight of Trump sparked a chant of, among other things, “two more weeks!”

That divide even extended to the fundraiser’s musical talent.

Though a touring version of the Beach Boys headed by original member Mike Love was slated to perform for Trump, two of the band’s co-founders, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, issued public statements Sunday distancing themselves from the event, telling Variety magazine: “We have absolutely nothing to do with the Trump benefit today in Newport Beach. Zero.”

The event, at the Lido Island home and adjoining land owned by tech entrepreneur Palmer Luckey, went off as planned. In the morning, about 1,300 supporters, who reportedly passed Covid tests, were bussed to Luckey’s property. Trump and some family members arrived a bit after noon, with Trump posing for pictures and meeting with donors who reportedly gave $2,400 to his presidential campaign or as much as $150,000, per couple, to the Republican National Committee or GOP groups in various states.

Trump then offered a 40-minute address, highlighting his Supreme Court appointments and his push to expand the military. The crowd — wearing business attire and masks, and standing outside under sun canopies — reacted warmly, as did the apparently pro Trump flotilla of boaters and paddle boarders who were off shore but within sight of Trump’s podium.

“It was a very moving moment,” said Steve Craig, a Newport Beach resident and businessman who was at the event.

Trump, who did not wear a mask during the speech, also told his supporters that he likes the name John Wayne Airport, saying he would withhold federal funding from the airport if the name is changed.

“He was very in touch with Orange County politics,” Craig said.

It’s hard to say if the event suggests broad support for Trump locally.

Data shows that Orange County, once a GOP stronghold, now leans leans blue, with Democrats holding a 3 percentage point voter registration advantage over the GOP. In 2016, the county favored Hillary Clinton over Trump by more than 100,000 votes and, in 2018, every House seat in the county was won by a Democrat. But that blue tint doesn’t extend to Newport Beach, where the GOP holds a strong registration advantage — 47% to 26% — over Democrats.

That was reflected in the crowds that came out to watch Trump’s motorcade.

“I love America and Trump loves America,” said Phil Currie Sr., a retired Air Force veteran from La Jolla who came with his family to be near Lido Island to encourage the president.

“I want to be here to support the man that made America what it is today.”

Currie, who served in the Air Force in the 1960s and said he is a descendant of one of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, added, “I want to give (Trump) a big thumbs-up.”

But others, some carrying signs for Biden, gathered a short distance away, on Newport Boulevard.

“I’m out here because I’m on the right side of history,” said Summer Bailey, a Newport Beach resident holding one end of a sign that read, “Honk if you think Trump is a moron!”

Wearing a mask and a flag-patterned tank top, Bailey said she felt compelled to protest after seeing what she called Trump’s “sins against our democracy.”

As Bailey spoke with a reporter, one of two women walking by wearing Trump T-shirts accused her of being a pedophile, a reference to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

In addition to the pro- and anti-Trump crowd, a third contingent also lined the streets Sunday –Armenians who live in Southern California. They marched to draw attention to a now three-week conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan that they say is killing civilians in a territory disputed by the two countries.

Some carried Armenia’s red, blue and orange striped flag and chanted slogans such as “Turkey out of NATO” and “No more genocide!”

“We have big trouble with Turkey and Azerbaijan,” said Maya Tokhalyan, of Burbank.

“Right now they are fighting against Artsakh, a small country of 250,000. There are terrorists from ISIS fighting in our country and violating our rights. We want to keep our land and defend our land.”

Though the crowds were gone by early afternoon, they were thick enough in the morning that at least some locals in or near Newport Beach grew frustrated.

“Not the most relaxing atmosphere,” said Eddie Lee, of Costa Mesa, as he and his wife, Michelle Lee, rode bikes through a crowd of protesters, who were shouting and waving flags.

“I’m trying to convince my wife, let’s take another route and go get coffee.”

Michelle Lee, who said she originally is from San Francisco, said it comes with the territory.

“The whole thing, all the conservative politics, you can’t really get away from it in Orange County.”

Source: Orange County Register

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