TAMPA – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump kicked off a tentative 10-stop, eight-state push to make his closing argument before Election Day on Saturday morning.
During his appearance at the Florida State Fairgrounds, he made overtures about winning the Sunshine State, defeating terrorism, criticizing the media.
While the event was added to Trump’s calendar at the last minute and started early on Saturday, the GOP nominee still drew several thousand attendees. Late last month, he drew an estimated crowd of 20,000 at the MidFlorida Amphitheatre – adjacent to Saturday’s venue.
Trump kicked off his rally by taking a dig at Hillary Clinton – jabbing her for last night’s rally she held that included a performance by Beyoncé and Jay Z.
“We don’t need Jay Z to fill up the arena,” he said. “We do it the old fashion way. We do it the old fashion way, folks. We fill it up because you love what we are saying and you want to make America great again. That’s about it.”
“And I actually like Jay Z but you know the language last night — ooooh, ooooh,” he continued. “I was thinking maybe I will just try it. Can you imagine if I used that language about one of them? Can you imagine if I said? He used every word in the book. I won’t use the initials because I will get in trouble. They’ll get me in trouble. He used every word in the book last night.”
The GOP nominee vowed he would win Florida and touted his previous success in the Sunshine State. He reminded rallygoers of his dominance in last March’s Republican presidential preference primary, taking 66 of 67 counties with the lone exception being Sen. Marco Rubio’s home county of Miami-Dade.
After mocking Clinton for her inability to maintain the pace he has in these closing days of the campaign, Trump drew one of his loudest applauses when he pledged to end the Syrian refugee program and “keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country.”
“We will become a rich nation again,” he declared. “But to be a rich nation, we must also be a safe nation. Hillary Clinton wants a 550 percent increase in Syrian refugees pouring into this country, over and above the thousands and thousands and thousands that are already coming in. You want to see a problem? This will be the great Trojan Horse – modern day version. Her plan will import extremism and radicalism into your schools and throughout your communities. When I’m elected president, we will suspend immediately the Syrian refugee program and we will keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country.”
Trump took aim at the media — a regular target at his rallies – and told his audience he would “sit down with the dishonest media.”
“Our country has never been in a situation like it is in right,” Trump said. “So dishonest, it is a rigged system, folks. I have been saying it. It is a rigged system and it begins with the media because the media rigs it. Did you see all those reports with The New York Times where The New York Times are sending them things? They’re saying — listen, we got this reporter essentially, 100 percent, this is friendly stuff. Where other reporters are sending them stories to check. Do you have any change in? That’s never happened to me. Man, I actually used to get good publicity until I decided to run. Now, I think I have –one of the writers of the Times, we don’t care if it is fair or not. It is the greatest pile on in the history of politics and that’s OK. I used to be on the other side. Don’t forget, I did very well. But I also love our country and it was time, it was time. We had to do something. But that is a big part of the rigged system.
Another highlight of Saturday’s event included Trump bringing a baby from the crowd up on stage with him and showing the baby off as “an early Trump fan.
“Look at this baby,” Trump said to the crowd. “They did a great job, wow. That is a great, beautiful baby, congratulations. That’s an early Trump fan, right?”
Saturday’s visit to Hillsborough County in the Sunshine State comes just two before Election Day. On Monday morning, Trump visits Sarasota in Manatee County 50 miles south of today’s venue.
Later Saturday, Clinton will pay a visit on the other side of the Florida peninsula in Broward County’s Pembroke Pines. Turnout in heavily Democrat Broward County will be essential for Clinton’s success. Indeed this is her second appearance in Broward County in less than week.
The battle for Florida’s 29 electoral votes remains in the toss-up column and Hillsborough County will be pivotal in Tuesday’s outcome. As has this county has gone in the previous four presidential elections, so has the presidency, with it going for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 and for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor