Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested that Republican Party leaders were participating in a “sinister deal” aimed at hurting his chances of defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Addressing thousands of supporters in the battleground state of Florida, the GOP presidential nominee criticized House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other party leaders who have distanced themselves from his campaign after the release of a 2005 video in which Trump spoke crudely about women.
Trump chastised Ryan, who on Monday said he would no longer campaign for Trump, and GOP leaders for not lauding his second debate performance last Sunday night. The debate came two days after the video was released, as Trump fought to salvage his campaign.
“You would think they would say ‘great going, Don . . . let’s go, let’s beat this crook,’ ” Trump told a packed Southeastern Livestock Pavilion, a rodeo arena located in the Republican stronghold of North Florida.
“There’s a whole deal going on here, we’re going to figure it out . . .,” he said. “I always figure things out but there’s a whole sinister deal going on.”
The real estate mogul said his campaign was at a “disadvantage” with 27 days left until Election Day — “especially when you have the leaders not putting their weight behind the people.”
Trump’s second day of a three-day swing through Florida came as a federal court judge ordered the state to extend its voter registration deadline by six days because of Hurricane Matthew. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ordered Florida to extend its voter registration to Oct. 18.
The Florida Democratic Party sued for the extension, after their request was shot down by Gov. Rick Scott, a staunch Trump supporter.
“Who is not registered?” Trump asked the crowd. “If you’re not registered get the hell out of here . . . Leave right now and go register.”
During the rally in Ocala, loyal supporters often broke out in loud chants of “USA! USA! USA!” during his nearly hourlong speech.
Peter Doran, 57, who grew up in Levittown and Hicksville, said he supports the Manhattan real estate mogul “because he’s not owned by anyone.
“The man has a passion for what he’s doing,” said Doran, a chiropractor who now lives in Spring Hill, Fla.
Kim James, 59, a Republican from Ocala, said she was not offended by Trump’s remarks toward women captured in the video, saying his campaign pledges mattered more to her.
“It’s not about what he said on that video, it’s about what he says he will do for this country, and I believe he will deliver on his promises,” James said.
Later, Trump headlined a second rally in Lakeland, a sprawling suburb about 100 miles south of Ocala, where he repeated his long-standing attacks on Clinton’s trustworthiness — saying if elected he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
“The Clintons . . . are a very dishonest pair,” Trump said referring to Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
He told throngs of supporters at the Sheltair Aviation hangar “we as a group, as a movement, are the future,” while deriding Republican leaders for not aiding his campaign.
“If we had a little help from our very weak Republican leadership, we would be sailing like you’ve never sailed before,” Trump said.
On Thursday, Trump, who trails Clinton by an average of 2.4 points in Florida according to the poll tracking website Real Clear Politics, will campaign in West Palm Beach before heading to Ohio for an evening rally in Cincinnati.