In Florida, Donald Trump tries to stay on message (and doesn’t)

In the midst of his frenzied run for the White House, Donald Trump has frequently taken detours – once to another continent —  to promote his own business interests. Tuesday morning was one of those pit stops rooted in brand enhancement, as the GOP nominee began his day at Trump National Doral, his golf course near Miami, Florida.

Tuesday evening, however, included a campaign stop in Tallahassee, where Trump told the crowd that he’d “love” to take on Vice President Joe Biden in some fisticuffs — maybe the first time a national political figure has brought up the possibility of violence involving a sitting vice president since Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in 1804.

“Did you see where Biden wants to take me to the back of the barn?” Trump told a crowd of many thousands in Tallahassee. “Me. He wants to. I’d love that. I’d love that. Mr. Tough Guy. You know, he’s Mr. Tough Guy. You know when he’s Mr. Tough Guy? When he’s standing behind the microphone by himself. That’s when. He wants to bring me to the back of the barn. Oh, some things in life you could really love doing.”

He was referring to Biden’s remark last week, in which the vice president harshly criticized Trump’s crude comments caught on a hot mike on “Access Hollywood” tapes from 2005.

“The press always ask me don’t I wish I were debating him?” Biden said. “No, I wish we were in high school. I could take him behind the gym — that’s what I wish.”

Trump began his Florida jaunt on Tuesday assembling workers from his Doral golf course behind him – “80 percent Hispanic!” he made sure to note. He called Doral one of the “great courses of the world” and went on to note that Doral had “happy customers.” He also invited some of the workers to offer testimonials about how much they enjoy working there and admire Trump. Trump even joked that he would fire anyone who didn’t say nice things about him.

The course’s general manager, David Feder, insisted that the golf course staff had no foreknowledge of Trump’s call for employee testimonials and said he had no idea what the employees would say.

After touting Doral, Trump moved on to the day’s messaging – teeing off on the news that Obamacare premiums would be jumping, on average, 25 percent in 2017. Then, he seemed to get off track.

As Trump pointed to his workers, he said, “All of my employees are having tremendous problems with Obamacare. This election is going to be about Obamacare.  It’s going to be about jobs. It’s going to be about a lot of things. But Obamacare is just blowing up.”

Instantly, this raised questions of why Trump did not provide his employees with health insurance through his company, if all of his workers were having “tremendous” problems with Obamacare. Minutes later, as reporters yelled questions at him, Trump walked his claim back, saying only “some of them are, but most of them, no.”  Feder then hastily told reporters that the vast majority of Doral employees are insured through Trump’s company.

That same evening, Trump wondered out loud in Tallahassee about those employees, asking his supporters whether he should supply them with insurance.

“Unfortunately, a small number of the people that work at Trump National in Doral, which is in Miami, they’re on Obamacare,” Trump said. “Small percentage, and as I said this morning, they are having tremendous difficulty. In fact, a lot of them have said, ‘Can you take me off Obamacare?’”

“Should I do it or not? Should I take them off? Ah, maybe I will. I’ll tell you folks when I do it. No, but it’s a small group but it’s a group that’s having tremendous problems.”

Sandwiched between the two events was a whirlwind day of campaigning in Florida for Trump, it included multiple roundtables, a rally at an airport in Sanford, as well as a whirlwind  of interviews aimed at capitalizing on the Affordable Care premium hikes.

“This has turned out to be one of the great disasters of all time,” Trump told Cincinnati radio host Scott Sloan. “First of all, the country can’t afford it. Second of all, the people can’t afford it.”

“They say 25 percent, Trump said. “I don’t know where they’re getting the number. Because the real number is 60 percent and 70 percent. In some states, 82 percent and it’s only getting worse.”

He repeated the claim that the rate hike number was false throughout the day, at one point saying, “That is a lie, just like everything else.”

While he started the day off promoting his business interests, Trump told Sloan that he had no interest in “Trump TV” – a rumored media venture for after the election that Trump has reportedly pursued. “Trump Tower Live,” Facebook live programming by the Trump campaign, launched Monday.

“No, I have no interest in Trump TV,” Trump said. “I hear it all over the place, and you know, I have a tremendous fan base, I mean we have tremendous base. We have the most incredible people, but I just don’t have any interest in that. I have one interest, and that’s on November eighth.”

Even as Trump labored to stay on his message about the Affordable Care Act, he managed to get in digs at fellow Republicans and the media, two of his favorite targets.

In an interview with WFLA-Radio, Trump called the lack of vocal support from House Speaker Paul Ryan, a frequent recipient of his ire, and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell “a little bit disappointing.” And to the Republicans who ran for president but didn’t honor their pledge to support the nominee, Trump said, “I don’t know how they live with themselves, in one way.”

Trump even acknowledged, in an interview with radio host Rush Limbaugh, that he doesn’t mind being knocked off message so he can defend himself.

“Well, I’d like to at least, you know, make a statement about the truth,” Trump said. “And even if that delays it a day or two, in other words, then they have to print the statement and they don’t talk about jobs and Obamacare, right. know, but honestly, I mean, people have to know your view. They have to know that this stuff never took place, it was total fabrication.”

The “total fabrication” alluded to all of the sexual misconduct claims women have made against him in recent weeks — they number in double digits now.  Last weekend, Trump vowed to sue them, though in an interview on Fox News, he said he would “like to get off that subject.”

But even then, Trump could not seem to help himself. In that same interview with Fox, he was asked about his rhetoric about polls being rigged. Trump answered with a completely unrelated tangent about the sexual misconduct allegations.

“I just want to let people know I’m innocent,” Trump said. “Okay? Nothing ever happened. Didn’t exist. This was all fantasyland. So I do think I have an obligation to myself and my family to say I’m innocent. So that is all I say. I’m innocent. and I did nothing. Zero.”

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