Trump: Election will decide ‘whether we remain a free country’



Jeff Burlew, Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat
12:09 a.m. EDT October 12, 2016

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    Trump Supporter in Panama City talks about Trump

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — Bruised from the release of a decade-old recording in which he made lewd comments about women, Donald Trump went on the attack Tuesday before a revved up crowd of diehard supporters.

Trump blasted Hillary Clinton for her private email server, her stance on immigration and her support of Wall Street during a rally in Panama City Beach. According to the campaign, more than 10,000 supporters cheered Trump at the outdoor venue, while 10,000 more waited outside the gates.

“This election will determine whether we remain a free country in the truest sense of the word or we become a corrupt banana republic controlled by large donors and foreign governments,” Trump said. “The election of Hillary Clinton would lead to the destruction of our country — believe me.”

Trump didn’t directly address the scandal, though he did lambaste the media and in particular the Washington Post, which broke the story about the lewd comments.

The billionaire pledged to repeal and replace Obamacare, fix the nation’s “terrible, terrible” trade deals and rein in immigration. He also promised to protect Medicare and Social Security and create millions of new jobs.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created, believe me,” he said.

He called Clinton an “all-talk politician” who is “crooked as a three-dollar bill.”

“Folks, folks, we’re being led by stupid people,” he said. “And Hillary Clinton will be worse than Obama. If I am elected president, we’re going to start winning again. We don’t win anymore.”

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The release of the audio has prompted prominent GOP leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Arizona Sen. John McCain, to abandon his campaign.

But Trump fans in Republican-heavy Bay County and environs were undaunted. If anything, they seemed energized by Trump’s performance in Sunday’s presidential debate and suspicious about the timing of the audio’s release.

“He’s running for president, not choir boy,” said Marilee Denton, a retired dental hygienist from Lynn Haven. “He’s a strong man and a businessman who can change things.”

His fans posed for selfies in front of a Trump/Pence tour bus, waved “Make America Great Again” signs and cheered as his campaign commercials played on giant video screens.

“I’m glad we could be with all the ‘deplorables,’ ” quipped Panama City business owner Jan Averett, referring to a description of Trump supporters Clinton used but apologized for later.

Averett, who came to the rally with Denton and another friend, said she was unbothered by the lewd recordings. Trump apologized for the comments but has dismissed them as “locker room talk” and a campaign “distraction.”

“He’s just a man,” she said. “He said things that men say. He professes to be a Christian. He’s probably a fairly new Christian. He makes mistakes. He admitted it. He apologized.”

Eddie Grice, a retired power plant operator from Tennessee visiting the beach with his family, said Trump bested Clinton in the debate.

“He went in limping, but I believe he came out great,” he said. “It’s funny how that stuff comes out right before things.”

Pat Kelley, a plastic surgeon from Panama City, came to the rally with his wife and two children wearing a “Hillary Clinton for Prison 2016” T-shirt. He said President Obama deserves to be behind bars, too.

“I think they ought to occupy adjacent cells,” he said. “They’re ruining America. And we simply can’t survive another four to eight years of the same old, same old.”

Florida, a crucial battleground state, is considered must-win territory for Trump. He’s planning to visit the Sunshine State three times over the next couple of days, holding rallies in Ocala, Lakeland and West Palm Beach.

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