JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - When Air Force One landed on the runway at Cecil Airport, it left no doubt the Jacksonville area will be a battleground for Republicans and Democrats trying to swing Florida in the clash between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump's campaign rally at Cecil Airport marked the first personal appearance of a presidential candidate in Jacksonville this election season, though Trump and Biden have been warring on the airwaves with ads coming so often that they sometimes appear back to back on television screens.
Thousands of Trump supporters filled bleachers Thursday evening for Trump's speech. That energy will carry over for the Republican Party of Duval County through Election Day, county Chairman Dean Black said Friday.
"It drives enthusiasm through the roof," Black said. "It lets everybody know it's real. It's go time."
He said Duval County used to be dominated by Republicans but Democrats have made inroads, which has spurred local Republicans to ramp up their operation.
"I think this will be close in Duval County," Black said. "We are a purple county, a battleground county, in the largest battleground state in the most important election in a century."
Duval County Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Henry shares that assessment, with the notable difference that while Black sees Trump winning Duval County, Henry has Biden pulling the most votes here.
"Duval County will determine who the next president of the United States will be," Henry said. "And I say that because Florida undoubtably will make a pivotal choice in who the president will be."
He said Duval County has "been slowly moving in a positive direction" that will give the advantage to Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris.
Trump, looking to repeat his 2016 win in Duval County and in Florida, stepped off Air Force One on Thursday evening and spoke for more than hour. He repeated earlier statements that he will announce a woman Saturday as his Supreme Court pick, and media reports Friday said that choice is Judge Amy Coney Barrett.