Trump gains mo­men­tum in Florida Back­ers re­main con­fi­dent of wins in bat­tle­grounds

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER AND SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

TAMPA, FLA. | Prog­nos­ti­ca­tors have is­sued a grim as­sess­ment of Don­ald Trump’s chances, but the GOP nom­i­nee’s path to the White House is still alive and runs through Florida, where his cam­paign has gained mo­men­tum in the fi­nal stretch of the race.

He’s ris­ing in the polls in the Sun­shine State and re­mains com­pet­i­tive in Ohio — the two big­gest bat­tle­ground prizes on the map — and the volatil­ity of the 2016 elec­tion leaves his back­ers con­fi­dent that he holds the ad­van­tage thanks to an en­thu­si­asm gap that the ty­coon holds over Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“Any­body who says the race is over — that’s pre­pos­ter­ous,” said Peter Fea­man, a GOP na­tional com­mit­tee­man in Florida. “Now that early vot­ing has started and the turnout so far is set­ting records, that bodes well for Trump, not Clin­ton, be­cause the en­thu­si­asm for Trump is through the roof.”

Mrs. Clin­ton’s crowds are grow­ing as the Nov. 8 elec­tion draws near, in­clud­ing sev­eral thou­sand who showed up for a mid­day rally here last week. But she didn’t ap­proach the more than 20,000 peo­ple who two days ear­lier filled the nearby MidFlorida Credit Union Am­phithe­ater to see Mr. Trump.

“It’s un­be­liev­able. I’ve never seen any­thing like this,” Mr. Fea­man said of the rock con­cert-size crowds. “When Mitt Rom­ney ran in 2012, we would strug­gle to get 500 peo­ple in an aban­doned air­plane hangar to make it look crowded.”

The map is still a ma­jor chal­lenge for Mr. Trump. Even if he pre­vails in Florida and Ohio, he still must cob­ble to­gether wins in states such as Iowa, Ne­vada, New Hamp­shire, North Carolina and Wis­con­sin, as well as hold on to all of the states won by Mr. Rom­ney in 2012.

The lat­est polling shows the GOP nom­i­nee strug­gling in Ari­zona, Ge­or­gia and Utah, all states that Ge­orge W. Bush and Mitt Rom­ney won with ease.

In­deed, GOP vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mike Pence cam­paigned in Utah on last Wed­nes­day while Mr. Trump was in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. — two places where a suc­cess­ful Repub­li­can ticket shouldn’t be spend­ing time with less than two weeks to go be­fore Elec­tion Day.

Mr. Pence was urg­ing con­ser­va­tive Utah vot­ers to stick with the GOP, while Mr. Trump was tend­ing to his day job run­ning his busi­ness em­pire. He at­tended the grand open­ing of his new lux­ury ho­tel, which was re­fur­bished from the his­toric Old Post Of­fice just blocks from the White House.

The rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony, how­ever, fu­eled ques­tions about whether he was wast­ing some of the pre­cious lit­tle time he has left be­fore Elec­tion Day. Mr. Trump said he was try­ing to show the coun­try what he can do, adding that the ho­tel came in un­der bud­get and ahead of sched­ule.

“We turned a prop­erty that had been ne­glected for decades, and which was los­ing huge sums of money for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, into a ma­jor rev­enue pro­ducer and job cre­ator,” said the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man, stand­ing be­fore a lectern em­bla­zoned with the “Trump Ho­tels” logo. “This is what I want to do for our coun­try. And this is what we’re work­ing so hard to do.”

In tele­vi­sion in­ter­views and a cam­paign stop later in the day in North Carolina, Mr. Trump pro­jected con­fi­dence.

“New polls are com­ing out. We’re lead­ing Florida. We’re do­ing great in North Carolina. We’re do­ing great in Penn­syl­va­nia. We’re do­ing great all over,” Mr. Trump told CNN. “We’re do­ing re­ally well in New Hamp­shire — Ohio, as you know, and Iowa are do­ing fan­tas­ti­cally well. I’m telling you, CNN doesn’t say it, but I think we’re go­ing to win.”

The GOP ticket got a boost last Wed­nes­day from a Bloomberg Pol­i­tics poll that showed him lead­ing Mrs. Clin­ton by 2 points in Florida, 45 per­cent to 43 per­cent.

The poll­sters credit Florida in­de­pen­dent vot­ers with shift­ing to Mr. Trump to put him in front.

It was the first Florida poll he has topped in more than three weeks, and the Real Clear Pol­i­tics rolling av­er­age of re­cent polls in Florida, which in­cludes the Bloomberg Pol­i­tics poll, still puts Mrs. Clin­ton ahead of Mr. Trump by 1.6 points, 46.4 per­cent to 44.8 per­cent.

Florida is a must-win for Mr. Trump be­cause he would have vir­tu­ally no path to the White House with­out the state’s 29 elec­toral votes. Mrs. Clin­ton has al­ter­na­tive paths to the 270 elec­toral votes needed to win, but she has cam­paigned hard in Florida in an ef­fort to block Mr. Trump and sew up a vic­tory.

Both can­di­dates barn­stormed across the state this week as early vot­ing got un­der­way.

Mrs. Clin­ton, warn­ing that Mr. Trump poses an ex­is­ten­tial threat to Amer­i­can val­ues, urged her sup­port­ers to get to the vot­ing lo­ca­tions as soon as pos­si­ble.

“Don­ald Trump says he can still win, and he’s right,” she told the huge crowd gath­ered in a down­town park be­side the Hills­bor­ough River. “That’s why it’s so im­por­tant you get out there and vote.”

Mr. Trump de­liv­ered a sim­i­lar ap­peal to the throngs at the am­phithe­ater, where a large share of the crowd was women and His­pan­ics, two groups that Mrs. Clin­ton hopes to dom­i­nate at the bal­lot box.

In the cru­cial bat­tle­ground state of Ohio, Mr. Trump has con­sis­tently led or tied in re­cent polls. The Real Clear Pol­i­tics av­er­age of Ohio polls showed him ahead of Mrs. Clin­ton by 1.1 points, 44.8 per­cent to 43.7 per­cent.

But Mr. Trump’s early-cam­paign pre­dic­tions of ex­pand­ing the elec­toral map to New York and Cal­i­for­nia haven’t come to pass. In­stead, his path to the White House has nar­rowed in re­cent weeks, ac­cord­ing to po­lit­i­cal hand­i­cap­pers.

The Rothen­berg & Gon­za­les Po­lit­i­cal Re­port, a non­par­ti­san elec­tion tracker, showed Mrs. Clin­ton po­si­tioned to win 323 elec­toral votes ver­sus 191 for Mr. Trump, with 24 tossup votes on the line in Iowa and Ohio.

Seth McLaugh­lin re­ported from Wash­ing­ton.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Don­ald Trump is mak­ing gains in the swing state of Florida, where he has drawn mas­sive crowds and greater en­thu­si­asm ver­sus the sup­port Mitt Rom­ney found there in 2012.

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