Elections

At Melbourne rally, Trump defends debate performance

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally Tuesday in Melbourne, Fla.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally Tuesday in Melbourne, Fla. AP

Donald Trump held his first post-debate rally in the largest battleground state in the nation Tuesday, defending his debate performance, reviving many of his attack lines, and using the opportunity to recast the media narrative of his first debate against Hillary Clinton.

“I knew I was going into a situation where you were going to have the largest audience in the history of television and I took a deep breath and pretended I was talking to my family,” he said.

Buoyed by the cheering crowd, which Trump did not have during the debate, he pointed to the bank of media cameras and called out the “corrupt corporate media” who he said has enabled Clinton.

“Without the corrupt mainstream media, she wouldn't have a chance,”' he said to the crowd of about 10,000 at the Orlando-Melbourne International airport. He later urged the cameras to show the packed room, with people lined up along the balcony.

He estimated the crowd was 25,000, including 12,000 he said were waiting outside. “Fire marshal: Let ‘em in,”' he shouted. Police said the total count was closer to 9.500.

Trump called the post-debate polls “a thing of beauty,” noting the conservative Drudge Report had him up 20 percent. By contrast, a CNN poll of debate-watchers showed that 62 percent thought Clinton won the debate, compared to 27 percent for Trump.

He said his campaign raised “$18 million today” and said “we're leading in Florida.”

Trump recalled his debate reference to “stop and frisk,”' the police policy that was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in New York, a fact he claimed didn't happen during the debate.

“Of course it was ruled unconstitutional,”' he said, correcting himself.

He said nine more people died in Chicago Tuesday. “I will never back down from trying to save American lives,”' he said, as the crowded cheered.

“Does everybody believe me I was against going into Iraq?”' he asked.

In 57-minutes of unscripted comments, Trump returned to much of his stump speech, attacking Clinton for her email scandal and “do-nothing” record.

“Her single biggest achievement will go down with getting away with her phony email,” he said. “She named a post office. I think she named a road. She did nothing.”

As he had earlier in Miami, Trump recognized the death of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and also mentioned the death of golfing great Arnold Palmer.

Several supporters in the Melbourne crowd expressed disappointment in Trump's first debate showing, but also said it didn't matter.

Vivian L. Lamb, 78, of Melbourne said she watched “every minute” of the debate but summed it up this way: “They both lied.

“All politicians lie. I've known that all my life. But we need a big change,”' she said.

Lamb, who moved to Florida with her husband two years ago from Ohio, said that she is not happy that “as a taxpayer all my life,” Trump admitted to not paying federal taxes. But, she said, “he owns a lot of property” and, she added, “illegal immigrants don't pay any taxes.”

Katherine Berry, 27, of Jacksonville, watched the debate and said she agreed with the conservative talk show patter that it seemed as if Clinton was being fed answers.

“She talked very slowly, like she was listening to something and she paused a lot,”' said Berry, who drove down for the rally with her husband and friend.

Janusz Biskupek of Boca Raton blamed what he considered bad preparation by Trump on his aides. He said he wished the candidate had attacked Clinton on Benghazi and the Clinton Foundation.

“I'm not very happy,”' said Biskupek, who said he is a long-time Trump volunteer. “I want him to fire the people who prepared him for the debate. I'm his supporter, but he looked tired. He never looked into the camera. He works hard but I want to tell those people: ‘C'mon guys, we're 40 days out!’”

Introducing Trump was the Republican Party of Florida chairman, state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill, and Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Merritt Island, a candidate for state Senate.

“You can believe someone who speaks from the heart and that is what Donald Trump does,”' Mayfield said. “One of my favorite moments last night was when crooked Hillary actually criticized Donald Trump for being wealthy.... Hillary is wealthy too. The difference is how they made their money.”

“Hillary and Bill sold out our country,” she said to boos, “and they pocketed the money for their foundation.”

Mayfield commended Trump for opposing the education initiative started by former President George W. Bush, Common Core. “There is no need for the federal Department of Education,”' she said, adding it “needs to be eliminated.”

Ron Thomas, a retired New York police officer who was one of the few African Americans at the rally, commended Trump as “a builder and a problem solver.”

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