Donald Trump’s visit to Robarts Arena was one of his last campaign stops in a last-minute, packed schedule Monday in efforts to reiterate a number of his campaign ideas right before the general election.
“In one day, we are going to win the great state of Florida and we are going to take back the White House,” Trump said to a crowd just under 5,000, the capacity for the event.
Trump supporters lined the block emblazoned in American flags, Trump face masks, a range of anti-Hillary paraphernalia and the signature red “Make America Great Again” hats.
“We just want to see democracy at work,” said Pastor Stephen Schlabach of Shining Light Church in Sarasota while he waited in line. “The people have chosen these candidates, and so it’s a great snapshot of what America’s like, and we want to be a part of this system.”
During his 45-minute speech, Trump expressed confidence in winning electoral votes in New Hampshire, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, all of which he would visit Monday after Florida, either by himself or with vice presidential running mate Gov. Mike Pence.
Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh and School Board member John Colon showed their support for the Republican presidential candidate on stage. Also in Sarasota to support Trump were Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Cissie Graham Lynch, granddaughter of the Rev. Billy Graham, whose 98th birthday was Monday.
“We’re looking for greatness for our country. We’re looking for religious liberty,” Trump said, pointing at Graham Lynch.
Joe Gruters, who emceed the event and is running for a seat in the Florida House, said the fact that Sarasota is Trump’s last Florida stop was special, as the Sarasota GOP has given Trump their “Statesman of the Year” award twice.
“It looks like we cut into the margins that Mitt Romney lost on early voting four years ago,” Gruters said. “It looks like the trends have changed in our direction, in our favor, and we’re going into tomorrow where all the polls have us basically even.”
The crowd exploded in cheers, boos and chants in response to repetitions of key campaign lines by Trump, like a “rigged election,” “building a wall,” “repealing Obamacare” and immigration.
Trump supported keeping Syrian refugees out of the United States, but for creating “safe zones,” something Trump had been talking about for a year.
“What’s happening is just a horrible thing, what’s happening. But we have enough problems in our country,” Trump said.
He cited specific plans for Florida, like creating more manufacturing jobs and flying new planes out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. He also said he wants to increase import tariffs to 35 percent and decrease business taxes to 15 percent.
“I’m not a politician,” he said. “My only special interest is you.”