TAMPA, Fla. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump took his campaign to the critical battleground state of Florida Monday to fire up his base and reclaim the GOP and independent voters he lost after three weeks of scandals and missteps that led him to sink in the polls.
“The tide of big government will no longer wash away our jobs and our freedoms,” Trump said to a large, boisterous crowd inside an amphitheater at the Florida State Fairgrounds. He promised “a rebirth of American liberty and prosperity. We need a rebirth . . . this why I am doing this. I am going to fight to bring us all together as Americans.”
He then continued to map out his first 100 days office, serving up red-meat issues and rhetoric to his supporters at, many of whom feel ignored during eight years of Democratic President Barack Obama.
“We’re going to cancel billions and billions of payments to the United Nations climate change programs” and use it instead to rebuild America’s infrastructure, he said.
Trump also promised a tax cut “for all middle class families, a big one,” but with no details of how to pay for it.
He said he also would suspend the influx of refugees from war-ravaged Syria, a program Clinton said she would expand to care for women and children refugees.
If elected, Trump said, he would institute aggressive ethics reform “to drain the swamp” in Washington. The reforms would include restrictions on lobbying by former Congress members, he told supporters.
Trump brought cheers when he mentioned one poll that gave him a 2 percentage point lead over Clinton.
The Real Clear Politics monitoring of national polls, however, showed Clinton with leads of 1 percentage point to 6 percentage points on Monday, with two polls tied and Trump leading by 2 percentage points in the Rasmussen Report poll. Trump has often said he was high in the polls by citing unscientific online surveys in which those on a website can register their vote.
Trump’s son and campaign surrogate, Eric Trump, sent an email request for donations from supporters Monday saying, “Early voting starts TODAY in some counties in Florida — the most important, must-win battleground state . . . Florida’s 29 electoral votes are absolutely critical to our success, and current polling shows a dead heat.”
Trump has been accused by several women over the course of several decades of inappropriately touching them. He drew fire from Republican leaders after last week’s final presidential debate when he wouldn’t commit to supporting the outcome of the election if he lost. Several Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, criticized Trump’s statement as undermining America in the eyes of the world.
Monday night, thousands jammed the amphitheater, standing for two hours in 80-degree temperatures to get in and show they still backed the maverick candidate’s White House run.
“My support is stronger for him now, more than ever,” said Clarice Henderson, 58, a retiree from Valrico, Florida. “None of us are perfect, but I think he’s done more to show he is more presidential.”
Henderson and her friend, Mary Bell, 58, of Tampa each held pink “Women for Trump” signs. They said Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, makes the ticket much stronger and should make the Republicans appeal to voters beyond Trump’s base.
Henderson and Bell dismissed the accusations of sexual harassment against Trump. They said the claims are far less than what they see as Clinton’s crimes of being, as the FBI put it, “extremely careless” in the handling of sensitive information while using her private email server as secretary of state.
“The nation is rising,” Bell said in outrage at Clinton’s conduct, which the FBI criticized but decided against prosecuting.
Lesa Martino, a 52-year-old pharmacist from Tampa, wore a Clinton-in-prison-stripes costume on the hot afternoon. She dismissed sexual harassment claims against Trump, noting one was from “a porn star.”
“I don’t believe it,” she said.
His supporters were quick to cite Clinton’s scandals as far worse than those of Trump. On stage, Trump played up the “crooked Hillary” angle to further rouse the crowd.
“What shows our system is rigged is Hillary Clinton with her many crimes was even allowed to run for president in the first place,” Trump said, citing the FBI investigation. “So sad.”
He said “our country in terms of justice has never reached a lower point than we are witnessing today.” Clinton “lies more than any other human being,” Trump said.
Mark Proctor said he has long backed the Bush family in Republican politics, but found himself attending his first Trump rally Monday near his home in Tampa.
“I am a traditionalist,” said Proctor, 65, who works in real estate.
“I was for Jeb Bush,” he said. “But maybe it’s time for a change . . . doing things a little bit different, rather than the status quo.”