Donald Trump’s 78th birthday becomes a show of loyalty for his fans and fellow Republicans

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Donald Trump spent the day before his 78th birthday being feted by Republicans in Congress who sang “Happy Birthday” and presented him with a cake and gifts. It was a remarkable show of loyalty for a former president who was shunned by many of the same lawmakers after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

On Friday, Trump will get another birthday celebration, this time with thousands of supporters in his adopted home state.

Members of the “Club 47” fan group will hear from Trump in West Palm Beach, Florida, a short drive from his Mar-a-Lago residence. The event sold out of 5,000 tickets at about $35 apiece, with closer spots to the stage costing $60, according to Club 47 President Larry Snowden.

Weeks after becoming the first former president to have been convicted of a felony, Trump has tightened his grip of 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.

Trump is now three years younger than Democratic President Joe Biden, who is 81.

Trump was in Washington Thursday to meet with House and Senate Republicans 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. A room of House Republicans sang “Happy Birthday” to Trump and gifted him with a baseball and bat from the annual congressional game.

Senators later presented an American flag cake with 45 candles, referencing that Trump was the 45th president. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming then added two more candles with the numerals 4 and 7.

“We’re all committed to make sure he becomes the 47th president,” Barrasso told reporters later, adding: “As he was sitting there, I pull them out, put them on. He loved it. And that was the last big applause at the end when you heard that.”

Among the senators who attended the gathering was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who endorsed Trump earlier this year despite not having spoken since 2020. Barrasso told reporters that Trump and McConnell spoke and exchanged a fist bump.

Snowden, Club 47’s president, and others said they expect Trump to talk about the verdict in New York as part of his regular campaign message. Trump will be sentenced July 11.

“Our people are anxious to hear his expression of his commitment to move ahead. I know that he is committed to continue to move ahead no matter what the left-wing side of our country throws at him,” Snowden said.

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 who plans to attend Friday, 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. Maldonado said she’s excited to be at an event for Trump’s birthday, but she also thinks 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 writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

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