WITH the US election just 15 days away, a desperate Donald Trump has launched a campaign blitz in Florida — a state he must win if he has any chance of becoming president.
The Republican nominee addressed an eager crowd of thousands on Sunday at a rally at the Collier County Fairgrounds near Naples in southwest Florida, discussing “radical Islam,” the second amendment and the “corrupt media” in his 45-minute speech.
“Are we glad that I started [campaigning]? Are we happy?” Mr Trump appealed to the crowd. “Well, I’ll let you know on the evening of November 8th whether I’m glad.”
That afternoon, in a TV interview with the CBS affiliate in Miami, the real estate mogul reiterated his desire to weaken First Amendment protections, which he believes gives the press too much freedom. He suggested America adopt a system like Great Britain’s, which makes it easier to sue the media.
“Well, in England you have a good chance of winning. And deals are made and apologies are made. Over here they don’t have to apologise,” he told Miami’s CBS4.
“They can say anything they want about you or me and there doesn’t have to be any apology. England has a system where if they are wrong, things happen.”
Mr Trump added: “I’m a big believer, tremendous believer of the freedom of the press. Nobody believes it stronger than me but if they make terrible, terrible mistakes and those mistakes are made on purpose to injure people.”
Mr Trump has threatened to sue multiple media outlets over coverage he deemed unfair, although he is yet to file any of the threatened lawsuits. He has also suggested that he would sue the various women who have accused him of sexually assaulting them and has denied all allegations against him.
The New York Times responded to Mr Trump’s recent threat to sue over a story outlining two allegations of assault against him. In the story, two women alleged that he had touched them inappropriately. He demanded a retraction of the article.
Lawyers for the publication wrote: “If [Mr Trump] believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticise him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”
The New York billionaire lashed out at the media again on Twitter Monday morning, complaining of “phony polls”. He hashtagged #DrainTheSwamp, part of the candidate’s new pledge to fix a “broken” Washington D.C. after “decades of failure, and decades of special interest dealing.”
“If I’m elected president, I will push for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress,” he vowed last week.
Also on Monday, he held a roundtable with farmers in Boynton Beach, Florida, telling the voters, “I actually think we’re winning.”
“We’re up in Ohio, we’re up in Iowa, we’re doing great in North Carolina, I think we’re doing great in Florida,” Trump said. “I think we’re going to win Florida big.”
But Mr Trump’s multi-city three-day swing in Florida comes as his team concedes both publicly and privately that he is actually “behind” in the polls.
“We are behind. She has some advantages,” campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. She detailed that those advantages include that Ms Clinton “has a former president, happens to be her husband, campaigning for her; the current president and first lady, vice president — all much more popular than she can hope to be. And she’s seen as the incumbent.”
Florida, where early voting is underway, is essential to Mr Trump’s White House hopes. There is no scenario in which he can lose Florida and win the 270 electoral votes needed to become president, based on current polling, AP reports.
Even if he wins the toss-up state, his path to 270 requires victories in several more swing states, including North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, and Nevada.
The Trump campaign acknowledged its challenge in a fundraising email sent out on Monday, conceding that victories even in those swing states wouldn’t be enough.
“Polls show us close in New Hampshire, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. Winning just any one of those states would lead us to victory,” the campaign wrote, citing three states where Mr Trump is trailing Ms Clinton by significant margins in recent polls.
Though Mr Trump is down, he received his first endorsement from a prominent newspaper. The Las Vegas Review-Journal — which is owned by casino magnate and major Republican donor Sheldon Adelson — endorsed the Republican candidate for president on Saturday, praising his “corporate sensibility”.
“Mr. Trump represents neither the danger his critics claim nor the magic elixir many of his supporters crave,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote.
“But he promises to be a source of disruption and discomfort to the privileged, back-scratching political elites for whom the nation’s strength and solvency have become subservient to power’s pursuit and preservation.”
This week, Ms Clinton is busy trying to slam the door on her Republican opponent in New Hampshire, which offers just four electoral votes compared to Florida’s 29, but is also crucial to Mr Trump’s hopes.
The Democratic nominee’s running mate, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, was making two campaign stops in Florida on Monday. Ms Clinton plans to visit the state on Tuesday and Wednesday.
After three days in Florida, Mr Trump plans to make stops in North Carolina on Wednesday. He will spend all day Thursday in Ohio with other stops in the Midwest — Iowa and Wisconsin — the next day before a Western swing to Colorado and Nevada this weekend.
— With wires