THE VILLAGES, Fla. (CN) — President Donald Trump rallied thousands of Florida seniors on Friday in an effort to boost voter turnout from this vital constituency in the crucial battleground state.
Speaking to an outdoor crowd at The Villages Polo Club, Trump attacked his Democratic rival Joe Biden and largely stuck to red meat messages popular with his base: tackling illegal immigration, lower taxes and cheaper prescription drugs.
“I think Joe Biden proved last night that he’s not capable of being the president of the United States,” the Republican nominee said, referencing the final presidential debate. “It’s a Trump super economy or a Biden depression. He has a gloomy vision. We’re about the American dream.”
This is the third time Trump has visited Florida in the last 11 days, illustrating how important the Sunshine State is the campaign. After his appearance at The Villages, Trump headed to Pensacola in the normally reliably red Panhandle.
On Saturday, Trump will travel to Palm Beach County to vote. The president changed his residency from New York to Florida late last year.
Florida is a must-win battleground state for Trump, and The Villages, a sprawling age-restricted community of 120,000 just north of Orlando, is one of the state’s largest Republican voting blocs.
The community went for Trump by 70% in 2016.
“I love it here,” Trump told the mostly older crowd, many sporting red shirts and hats. “I think I will sell Mar-A-Lago and I will move to The Villages.”
The president’s supporters chanted, “We love you.”
“This is just a stop to see the people that have been behind me from the beginning,” Trump said. “I love my people here. You’re willing to get in fights in your golf carts!”
In recent months, Trump supporters in the community have hosted a handful of “parades” with hundreds of residents driving around in decorated golf carts.
One parade made headlines in June when Trump retweeted, and later deleted, a video of a supporter in a golf cart shouting “white power” to counter-protesters.
“I love your golf carts,” Trump said. “They’re beautiful golf carts. I’m going to get me a golf cart.”
Before Trump arrived, touching down in a military helicopter near the stage, Sherry Canger hurried to a seat in the risers. This was the first time The Villages resident attended a Trump rally.
“I love everything he has done,” Canger said through a flag-decorated face mask.
The 72-year-old watched the final debate and thought Trump “did a good job.”
“I’m glad he confronted Biden about his dealings with world leaders,” she said, referring to allegations that Biden’s son, Hunter, used his influence to secure meetings between a Chinese businessman and the vice president.
Trump raised those allegations during the rally as well as Biden’s comments during the debate about transitioning away from the oil industry.
“Biden’s plan would mean Florida seniors would have no air conditioning in the summer, no heat in the winter and rolling blackouts,” Trump said.
He also defended his response to the coronavirus pandemic and spoke about his own Covid-19 diagnosis.
“I wasn’t feeling great, but I had to work,” he said.
After a few days of treatment from doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Trump said he “jumped up and I felt like Superman. Super Trump!”
Earlier in the day, the Biden campaign blasted Trump’s visit to the Sunshine State.
“Floridians deserve a president who understands this challenging time we’re living through, and has a plan to get us out of this pandemic and build back our economy,” the campaign said in a statement. “Ask yourself: what exactly does Donald Trump bring to Florida today to help your family get through this pandemic?”
It continued, “This moment requires a president who is up for the monumental task at hand – one who does not refer to service members as ‘suckers’ or ‘losers,’ or say seniors and others most vulnerable to this virus are ‘virtually nobody.’”
A poll released Friday by the conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports shows Trump leading Biden in Florida by 3 percentage points. Nearly 90% of those surveyed said they have chosen which candidate to support. Of those, Trump maintains a slight lead of 50% to 48%. However, respondents who said they already voted overwhelming chose Biden, 56% to 39%.
Another survey of likely voters conducted by St. Pete Polls found Biden with a narrow lead in the state – 47% to 48%. The poll also found those who have voted already chose Biden and those yet to vote will pick Trump. Both polls were conducted before the last debate.
As of Friday morning, more than 4.7 million Floridians have already voted – 1.6 million registered Republicans and 2.1 million Democrats.
Trump narrowly won Florida in 2016 by less than 1% of the vote.
Clutching a cane and waiting for his wife near the polo club’s exit, Bill Oaks said he already cast his ballot for Trump earlier this week, so the president did not need to earn his vote.
“I just wanted to be here,” the 67-year-old said. “I watch all the rallies on the TV and I wanted to experience it in person.”
The Villages resident pointed to border security and the economy as his biggest issues.
“I’m better than I was these last four years,” he said.Follow @https://twitter.com/alexbpickett
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