Donald Trump rallied a fiery base in one of Florida’s reddest counties in hopes of running up the score among party faithful.
The Republican nominee held a rally in Collier County Sunday, kicking off a three-day swing through the Sunshine State. The appearance came on the eve of early voting, which starts in about 50 counties Monday.
“I have a message to the voters of America. It’s a message for the Republicans, for the Democrats, for independents and everybody,” he told a boisterous crowd of more than 3,000 supporters. “It’s a message for everyone that wants to take back the government from special interests and donors. We are all just one America, and we’re going to put … America first.”
The rally was meant to energize supporters in a deep red county. There are 199,889 registered voters in Collier County, 51 percent of which are registered Republicans. Sen. John McCain won the county with 61 percent of the vote; four years later, Mitt Romney picked up 65 percent.
A virtual unknown at the time, then-candidate Rick Scott won his home county with 64 percent of Collier voters in 2010; bumping it up to 66 percent four years later.
“Here in Southwest Florida, God’s country, we can change the game. We’re the redder-than-red region, just look around,” said Francis Rooney, the former ambassador to the Holy See and a Republican running in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. “We can run up the score and we can protect what we stand for, what Donald Trump stands for, and what the Republican Party stands for from what happens in the I-4 (corridor), from what happens in Fort Lauderdale. We can run up the score, have huge turnout and, if we do, we can deliver Florida for the Republican Party and Donald Trump.”
Support in Republican strongholds, like Southwest Florida and the Panhandle, might not be enough. Trump lags in the polls, down an average of 4 percentage points in Florida, according to RealClearPolitics. Nationwide, the polling aggregation website shows Trump down an average of 5.9 percentage points.
There are glimmers of hope for Trump supporters. Trump touted a new tracking poll from Investor’s Business Daily, which had him leading Democrat Hillary Clinton 43 percent to 41 percent.
“We just left Ohio and Pennsylvania and North Carolina and I’ll tell you what, we’re going to win those states,” said Trump. “Don’t believe the media. The numbers are better than what they’re saying.”
Trump spoke for about 45 minutes, touching on topics like immigration, the Iran deal and the economy. He called out the media on several occasions, as did the speakers who took to the stage to warm up the crowd before he arrived, by helicopter, at the Collier County fairgrounds.
The New York Republican also continued to say the system is rigged, and promised to fix it once he is elected president.
“It’s rigged, it’s broken, it’s corrupt,” he said.
Trump railed against Clinton, saying the Democratic nominee has “bad judgement” and “bad instincts.”
On Monday, Trump is scheduled to hold a rally in St. Augustine before heading to Tampa for another at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater. He’ll spend Tuesday in Florida as well, with an event at the Orlando Sanford International Airport Million Air in Sanford, before heading to Tallahassee for an appearance at the Tallahassee Car Museum.
“You’re going to look back at this election and say this is the most important vote cast at any time,” said Trump. “You have 16 days to make it happen, but you have to get out and vote.”