From Jacksonville, Florida –
There may be no other state that will test the campaign strategy of Donald Trump more than here in Florida, as the past few weeks have seen a steady drumbeat of television commercials by Hillary Clinton in the Sunshine State, with only a minimal answer on the airwaves by the Republican nominee for President.
During a week with my family in the Sunshine State, we saw repeated Clinton ads running during coverage of the Olympics on NBC, along with a steady diet of ads during local TV newscasts as well – mainly an attack on Trump that features an old appearance with David Letterman.
In the clip used by the Clinton camp, Letterman ribs Trump about where his men’s clothing line is manufactured – not in the United States.
“I don’t know where they were made,” Trump says at first, as Letterman then reveals that Trump’s shirts are made in Bangladesh, and his line of ties are produced in China.
That ad ran so many times during our week in Florida that my kids repeatedly complained about how often it was on – a reflection of just how much more money Clinton’s campaign is spending nationally and here in the Sunshine State, and of the relative absence of any advertising reply from Trump.
And that ad money advantage for Clinton has been noticed by some Trump supporters here in Florida.
Trump did unveil a new ad on immigration on Friday, but we never saw it on TV during our time in Florida.
That Trump ad is also running in other swing states – North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio – all states where Trump has seen his poll numbers slip in recent weeks.
Recent polling in Florida has not been favorable for Trump; the Real Clear Politics average has a Clinton edge of 4.5 percent, and that’s been growing in August.
“Men are drawn to Trump’s message while women are not,” said Patrick Murray, who heads polling at Monmouth University, which found Clinton up by 9 points last week, and widening a gender gap among white voters.
The Monmouth poll also showed that Clinton has been able to unify Democrats, getting the support of 92 percent of them in Florida, while Trump is back at 79 percent of Republicans.
In that poll, independents in Florida are going 47-30 percent in favor of Clinton.
And for now, all signs point to even more Clinton ads airing all over Florida, giving her a big advantage over Trump in the months ahead.
While Clinton has the clear edge on the airwaves, on the ground, it’s very obvious that Trump has a lot of motivated supporters in northern Florida.
Driving around, it was not hard to spot Trump signs in neighborhoods, a bevy of bumper stickers on everything from Land Rovers to pickup trucks, as this reliable GOP area that went for Trump in the Florida Primary seems ready to deliver again in November.
My unscientific driving time in Florida didn’t have me run into anyone with a Hillary Clinton bumper sticker – I did see some for Bernie Sanders – but the polls have indicated a different story overall, as Clinton has the polling edge.
Remember – this is a state that Barack Obama won twice, but only carried 15 counties (2008) and 13 counties (2012) in doing so – there are 67 counties in all of Florida
Both Trump and Clinton have been in Florida recently for rallies – but that’s where the similarity ends, as Clinton has a strong organization, while Trump as of earlier this month only had one campaign office in this extraordinarily important swing state.
I will repeat what I have been saying for months – Trump can certainly win in November, but his campaign right now is not matching the organization and spending of Democrats in some key swing states – and Florida is in that category.