SANFORD, Fla. — Supporters in Seminole County hoped President Trump’s appearance in Sanford Friday would help grow a lead in an already closely divided county.
What You Need To Know
- Trump won in Seminole County in 2016 by more than 3,500 votes
- Democrats, Republicans ramping up voter outreach in the last weeks of the election
- This is a bad time for the president to be sidelined with COVID-19, Dr. Aubrey Jewett says
- RELATED: Usually Red Seminole County a Battleground for November Elections
- COMPLETE COVERAGE: 2020 Election News and Resources | Florida Voting Guide
Instead, the president was forced to cancel a planned rally in Sanford Friday after testing positive for coronavirus.
“In 2016, we voted for the president a little over 1 percent,” said Linda Trocine, chairwoman of Republican Party of Seminole County. “Seminole County has close elections and this November is no different.”
Despite the canceled rally, which was expected to draw several thousand supporters to Sanford International Airport, Trocine said her group will continue to push outreach and voting efforts.
“We have a great deal of enthusiasm,” Trocine said. “This election is about safety and jobs, and that’s what’s most important to Seminole County voters.”
Data from the Florida Department of State shows President Donald Trump won Florida by 112,911 votes in 2016.
That margin narrows county by county, with President Trump winning Seminole County in 2016 by more than 3,500 votes.
“We’re working really hard doing multiple activities we do in politics, we door knock, we phone bank, we do events and engage voters,” Trocine said.
The Trump Campaign said in a statement Friday:
"All previously announced campaign events involving the President’s participation are in the process of being moved to virtual events or are being temporarily postponed. In addition, previously announced events involving members of the First Family are also being temporarily postponed. All other campaign events will be considered on a case by case basis and we will make any relevant announcements in the days ahead. Vice President Mike Pence, who has tested negative for COVID-19, plans on resuming his scheduled campaign events.”
Dr. Aubrey Jewett, associate professor of political science at the University of Central Florida, said the timing of the president’s diagnosis could not be worse.
“The final month really is the make it or break it time, period,” said Jewett. “President Trump and Republicans have relied heavily four years ago on those in-person rallies to mobilize his base, to get people excited, to draw people in and to really make sure Republicans and independents turned out to vote.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters Friday that the president was experiencing “mild symptoms”. It is expected at minimum the President could be quarantined for 10 days, when there are 31 days remaining until the November 3 election.
An advantage for Trump is his past schedule of frequent trips to the Sunshine State, which he now considers, and is registered as, his full-time residency. The president has logged dozens of trips to Florida since February 2019; Biden by comparison has had only a half dozen.
While Republicans in recent months have stuck with traditional in-person outreach efforts, Democrats have talked about success in going digital. The Democratic Party and the Biden/Harris campaign have said in the past they have set volunteer and donation records through various virtual events.
Locally, Democrats are starting to shift gears in the final stretch.
“The focus for us right now is making sure we get everybody we think is going to vote to a poll somehow,” said Wes Hodge, chairman of Orange County Democratic Party. (NOTE: Hodge also serves as a political analyst for Spectrum News 13)
Hodge said local Democrats are extending their efforts beyond virtual events to door-to-door and face-to-face efforts.
“In 2018, Florida was decided by 32,000-plus votes, there are that number of votes right here in Orange County,” Hodge said. “We’re going to engage those voters who have not voted before to make them understand what’s at risk.”