SANFORD, Fla. — Republican Donald Trump is pushing hard for the early vote in the Florida battleground state as way to boost his campaign, which is sagging in the national polls to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s full-court press put him on local talk radio and four appearances in two days in Florida, including an afternoon rally in Sanford, where thousands of supporters gathered more than four hours before he was to speak at an aircraft hangar.
“I’m a big fan of his and his plan to bring the economy back,” said Nick Groos, 19, of Naples, an economics major at the University of Central Florida. He said he knows many people who voted on Monday, the first day of early voting in Florida.
Florida’s Division of Elections shows nearly 300,000 voters went to cast ballots on the first day early voting was offered in 50 counties. Another 1.3 million voters sent in their ballots by mail, according to The Associated Press.
Groos said he’s a student of conservative presidents Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan, both Republicans, and their attention to boosting the economy.
“I’m going to get out in two years and the president is going to have to get the economy running,” he said.
Trump has run on a platform that the economy is flat, with what he considers slow growth and with a middle class that feels left behind. Democratic President Barack Obama has said he understands many Americans don’t feel the strength he sees in the economy, but notes that nearly every indicator — unemployment rates and job growth among them — has risen during his administration and the country as a whole has recovered from the Great Recession.
But those angry about their insecurity in employment and future prospects say that is a major reason to vote early in states such as Florida to revive Trump’s campaign, which has suffered from sexual harassment accusations made against him in recent weeks and his refusal to say he whether he will accept the vote on Nov. 8 if he loses.
“I know the polls all show she is ahead,” said Kenneth Manney, 64, a disabled Vietnam Veteran from Longwood, Florida, who was working to get out the early vote. “But I think there are so many in the closet” who will vote for Trump.
He and other supporters Tuesday were seizing on the announcement this week that health insurance rates under Obamacare will rise more than 20 percent under the system some business leaders say is sapping their ability to hire and remain in business. They said Clinton will only increase that cost, which is eating into their family budgets at a time when wages are stagnant and good jobs are hard to find.
A race that has been extremely close widened to as much as 6 percentage points for Clinton in recent weeks, according to the survey by RealClearPolitcs.