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Trump marks his 78th birthday with a towering 'MAGA' cake and attacks on his 81-year-old rival's age

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks with reporters at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Washington. (AP / Evan Vucci) Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks with reporters at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Washington. (AP / Evan Vucci)
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -

Donald Trump marked his 78th birthday on Friday night by addressing a fawning crowd in Florida, promising to crack down hard on the U.S.-Mexico border and repeatedly dismissing his opponent in November's election, President Joe Biden, as too frail to handle a second term.

The former president elicited strong cheers by listing his now-familiar campaign plans, including discussing immigration in menacing terms, pledging to protect gun rights and reduce regulations, scrap environmental protections to stimulate domestic energy production and cutting taxes -- which he argued could further tame inflation that has already begun to ease, according to recent indicators.

"Our country is being destroyed by incompetent people," Trump said. And, as he officially moved to age 78 compared to the 81-year-old Biden, he laced into the president as being confused: "All presidents should have aptitude tests."

Trump addressed "Club 47" fan club members at a convention centre in West Palm Beach, a short drive from the former president's Mar-a-Lago residence. As part of the festivities, organizers brought out a towering, multi-layered cake as audience members tossed red and blue balloons.

Setting on a gold-colored base, the cake featured separate tiers that included a "Make America Great Again" baseball cap and the Club 47 logo, an American flag, the phrase "Born in the USA on Flag Day," a depiction of Trump golfing and the Oval Office fitted gold frames common in many Trump properties as well as Trump and Republican logos.

A birthday cake is carried onto the stage before Republican presidential candidate former U.S. president Donald Trump speaks at his birthday celebration, hosted by Club 47, in West Palm Beach, Fla., Friday, June 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

When Trump took the stage, the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" and chanted "USA! USA!" The layer cake was just for show. But backstage, there was a sheet cake with vanilla icing that was served to some members of the presumptive Republican nominee's campaign staff.

"This is the biggest birthday party I've ever had," Trump said.

Before Trump took the stage, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Byron Donalds, both Florida Republicans, helped warm up the crowd, gushing about Trump and his prospects for winning back the White House.

It was yet another strong show of support for Trump and came a day after Republicans in Congress sang their own rendition of "Happy Birthday" and presented the former president with a cake and gifts during a Thursday visit to Capitol Hill -- displaying remarkable loyalty for a former president who was shunned by many of the same lawmakers after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

Even after becoming the first former president to have been convicted of a felony, Trump has tightened his grip on much of his party's base and elected officials. Next month, he is scheduled to accept his party's presidential nomination for the third time -- despite facing sentencing in his hush money case on July 11.

"I know that he is committed to continue to move ahead no matter what the left-wing side of our country throws at him," said Snowden, Club 47's president.

Trump referenced his conviction on 34 felony counts on Friday, declaring, "In the end they're not after me, they're after you and I just happened to be standing in their way."

Mary Lou and Sue Reardon both came to the event from the Villages near Ocala, about 240 miles (386 kilometres) northwest of West Palm Beach. Both were wearing U.S. flag shirts and matching "Birthday" headbands with candles.

"We just feel like he's our last hope," Sue Reardon said of Trump.

Biden is 81 and has a birthday shortly after Election Day in November. His campaign marked Trump's birthday by compiling a listing of "78 of Trump's historic ... 'accomplishments,"' with links to media coverage of policy proposals including "cutting Social Security and Medicare," Trump's presidency during GOP losses in the U.S. House and Senate and several references to his legal cases.

"On behalf of America, our early gift for your 79th: Making sure you are never President again," Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer added to the birthday wishes.

By contrast, there was no hint of GOP disunity when Trump was in Washington to meet with House and Senate Republicans on Thursday, in his first visit to Capitol Hill since the riot, which was carried out by Trump supporters seeking to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden.

Among those attending was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who endorsed Trump earlier this year despite not having spoken since 2020.

Club 47 is based in Palm Beach County and says on its website that the club's goal is to keep Trump's supporters "in our area connected and engaged." Trump most recently spoke to the club in October, days after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Lydia Maldonado, a local Hispanic activist, said she's frequently attended events at Club 47 and been surrounded by a crowd adorned in U.S. flag shirts, Trump 2024 gear and U.S.-themed costumes.

Maldonado said this event is unique compared to any rally or event nationwide with the former president and that Trump feels comfortable and familiar with this crowd since it's his hometown.

"The purpose of having this event is pretty much to let him know how much the community here loves him and how much the community supports him," Maldonado said.

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Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Washington and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

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