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Politics / Issues

Donald Trump In Tampa Looks Beyond Florida's Primary

Several thousand people crowded into the Tampa Convention Center Monday afternoon, as Donald Trump made his second local appearance ahead of the Florida presidential primary.

Trump took his usual shots at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He also took some jabs at Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is running neck-and-neck in his home state polls with Trump. Still, Trump is predicting victory in both swing states.

"If we win Ohio and if we win Florida, then everybody agrees - every one of these guys that it's pretty much over," he said. "And then I can focus on Hillary (Clinton), because that's what I really want to focus on. The Republican Party has to come together."

Polls have Trump comfortably ahead of Rubio in Florida, and it's likely Rubio will drop out of the race if he loses his home state's winner-take-all primary.

Trump was introduced by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, his former rival for the presidency, Chris Christie, and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who endorsed Trump.

“I always listen to my mom, and my mom is with Donald Trump and so am I,” said Bondi.

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Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News
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WUSF News
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi endorsed Trump

One of Trump's supporters was Isabel Hagerman, a first-time voter, who voted for Trump on her birthday, March 2.

“I like the fact that he can’t be bought and he’s really focused and he seems really, really genuine when it says he cares about this country,” Hagerman.

His town hall, just like his February rally at the University of South Florida Sun Dome, drew out protesters.

They gathered outside the Tampa Convention Center and marched down Franklin Street, chanting and waving signs.

Tim Heberlein helped organize one of at least two protests held outside the convention center, just down the street from the site of a failed Trump Tower residential project on the Hillsborough River. He said Trump's rallies incite hatred and racism.

"It's not welcome here, that hate speech and that kind of rhetoric, just like his tower, will be unsuccessful in our city,” Heberlein said.

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Credit Roberto Roldan/WUSF News
Protestors line up near the Tampa Convention Center

He and the other protesters lined up outside of the site for a photo.

“We love Tampa and we think it’s better than what Donald Trump would have us and the rest of American believe, and what he would have it become,” said protester Conor Darken.

During Trump's rally inside the convention center, about six other protesters were removed from the ballroom where Trump was speaking.

Among those supporting Trump during his visit was Treston Dunn. He got Trump’s signature on his rally sign after the event.

“I came out there to represent the millennial generation,” Dunn said. “There’s a lot of bad press these days talking about how everyone who supports Trump is a racist or doesn’t have a job... I wanted to really show it’s not low-class Americans or uneducated people supporting him.”

The site of Trump's rally Monday was also where Rubio appeared last week at the Tampa Convention Center. However, he drew a smaller crowd.

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Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News
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WUSF News
Crowds snake around the Tampa Convention Center, around protesters gathered outside the entrance