ORLANDO -- As Donald Trump’s path to victory narrows to just a few key states, none is bigger or more diverse than Florida, making it crucial that he broaden his appeal.
But interviews with more than a dozen voters, several GOP strategists and observations at his campaign events show those efforts have been stymied by a slow, rough start in Trump’s general election campaign, the candidate’s explosive rhetoric and his inability to stay focused.
No doubt Trump is strong in the Sunshine State, as his blowout primary win illustrated. But if form follows and the race is decided on a narrow margin, he must expand what is overwhelmingly a white voter base and not alienate people he’s already drawn in.
“He needs to keep his mouth shut,” said Larry Nicholson, 64, a Republican from Orlando who still intends to vote for Trump but fears other Republicans and independents are being turned off by Trump’s abrasive personality and appetite for controversy.
“It’s turning me off in a way. I wonder if he can keep his temper to himself and be a leader. People are watching and learning, figuring it out,” Nicholson said, walking to his car after breakfast at Cracker Barrel.
“At first I was going to vote for Trump, but the more he talks … ” said DeDe Johnson, a moderate Republican who plans to vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton. “Seriously, I think he could become a Hitler.”
Mora Acosta, a member of Central Florida’s booming Puerto Rican population, said she agrees with Trump’s position on border security and the economy. Still, the Republican views Trump as erratic and considers the way he talks about immigration overly harsh. “He doesn’t think twice. He’s too ‘aaaagghhh.’”
--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times
Photo credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press