President Trump’s Fort Myers visit Friday to focus on senior citizens
President Donald Trump is expected to be in Fort Myers Friday, a bit closer to home for everyone in Southwest. He is supposed to be holding an invite-only event at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center — the former Harborside Events Center — downtown.
It’s all hands on deck for Florida Highway Patrol, Fort Myers Police Department and Lee County Sheriff’s Office and some unmarked security forces to help make Trump’s visit to Fort Myers run smoothly.
Paul Zappa is hoping the president’s visit to the Caloosa Sound Convention Center is open to the public. Even if it’s not, he told us he’s not wasting his time.
“I’ll be camping out all night just to see my president,” Zappa said.
While he plans on staying put, others will stay away.
“Basically, we just know that we can’t be driving on Daniels Parkway because they’re probably going to close that area off,” Stephanie Keys said. “I don’t know about I-75. I don’t know what route they would take.”
No one will likely know until the president’s motorcade makes its way downtown.
Traffic will be blocked. Roads could be closed. Parking will be tight if any at all.
Marty Drexler, the owner of Wise Guys Deli, worries the visit will close off his business.
“It might be a very busy day; it might be a very slow day,” Drexler said.
But Drexler believes the event will put Fort Myers on the map.
“It’s great to be recognized,” Drexler said. “It’s a brand-new hotel and facility behind us. We are on the rise. We’ve got a lot of building going on.”
Local American Legion respectfully declines honor due to short notice
One of the groups hoping to be at the president’s arrival Friday is American Legion Post 90 in Cape Coral. The post told us members were asked by the Trump campaign to present the president, but they had to respectfully decline due to the short notice.
It was a decision American Legion Post 90 says was hard to make.
“A little upset that we couldn’t accommodate the president,” Commander Nicholas Napolitano said.
Of the roughly dozen members on the color guard, some were out of town, some couldn’t be reached, and others couldn’t get time off work with such short notice.
“I would feel really honored and blessed to be a part of something like that,” veteran Amy O’Neill said, a color guard member.
O’Neil and others say, whether or not you support the president, it’s still an incredible honor to take part in a ceremony like this.
“He’s out commander in chief,” Napolitano said. “I don’t care if people were working. Maybe they could get a day off. I mean, that’s how important I thought it would be.”
We were told by members of the Post 90 that, even though they won’t be officially presenting the president Friday, they’ll still be there welcoming him during his stop in Southwest Florida.
Adviser says president’s message focused on senior voters
We spoke to Mercedes Schlapp, the president’s senior adviser.
“We know Florida is a critical state,” Schlapp told WINK News. “He won it in 2016, and he’s determined to win it again.”
Reporter Morgan Rynor: “Do you guys take polls, or was there a way for you to get a sense of the field here that made you say the president should come to Fort Myers to deliver that message?”
Senior adviser Mercedes Schlapp: Fort Myers has always been one of the important markets. As is Miami, Tampa, Orlando. As we know, there are swing voters in there.”
Morgan: “So why a private White House event and not a campaign event?”
Mercedes: “There are certain rules doing an official White House event versus a political event. If it’s a White House event, you really are limited on talking about your opponent.”
So the president will spend most of his time focusing on his message and message to seniors in particular.
Mercedes: “In this case, it’s important for him to address our seniors and hone in on what he’s been able to do to address Medicare and ensure that we build a strong economy.”
We also asked Schlapp if this is a fundraiser, but she didn’t know specifically about this event, but says the president is spending a lot of time bringing in a lot of money.
Presidential candidates look to win senior vote in Florida
The Trump campaign’s senior adviser told us the president wants to hammer home the differences between his message and his challenger’s.
President Trump’s campaign is running ads all over the country aimed at seniors.
Reporter Morgan Rynor: Why the ad? Is it because the campaign feels that way too? That the president may have lost support among seniors?
Campaign adviser Steve Cortes: “Look, I think it’s possible. I’ve seen a lot of different metrics that suggest we’ve lost some support. Others suggest that we don’t. But either way, we know this is a critical issue on the minds.”
Joe Biden believes he’s going to win the senior vote and said as much during a stop in Florida Tuesday night.
“The only senior that Donald Trump cares about, the only senior, is senior Donald Trump,” Biden said publicly.
But the seniors we spoke to Thursday are very much supportive of the president.
Nan Turner say she’s all in for the president
“I believe that he’s going to take care of us with our Medicare and our Social Security, and I’m really grateful that he even thinks about those things,” Turner said.
Same with Sandy and Don LaRoche.
“There’s a lot of seniors here, and we’re a couple of them, and we already voted for him,” Don said.
But polls suggest Florida seniors worried about COVID-19 lean toward Joe Biden.
The White House told us the event will be limited to 400 people. Those attending will be encouraged to wear PPE, and they will be seated 6 feet apart.
Campaign volunteer calls Trump support a ‘chess move’
President Trump’s private event will start at 1:45 p.m. with around 400 people present. It will be quick, because the president has an official rally in Ocala at 4 p.m. Expect to see rolling roadblocks from the international airport to downtown.
The White House says Trump will speak about healthcare costs and social security, as part of his focus on the area’s seniors. This is a very secure event; WINK reporters have had to submit all kinds of personal information to the secret service.
Jay Lagace is a Trump campaign volunteer invited to the event. We asked him what Trump means to him and what he would tell him if he got to talk to him.
Lagace: “I want to go up and shake his hand and tell him thank you.”
We asked him why it is still so important for Trump to visit here, even if he already has tremendous support.
Lagace: “Do I think it is a shoo-in in the greater Cape Coral, Fort Myers area? I do. I think Lee County is a very red county, but with all the craziness that is going on this year—it is 2020—and if you are going to expect something to go wrong, this would be the year to do it.”
Corey: “You posted something on Facebook saying ‘Your vote is not a valentine. You are not professing your love for the candidate. It is a chess move for the world you want to live in.’ What did you mean by that post?”
Lagace: “It is! It is absolutely 100% a chess move. And if I was going to have someone on my team playing chess, there is no one else I would want other than Donald Trump.”
Trump boosting business
Many are getting excited about President Trump’s arrival.
For Rosemary Scirrotto, his visit will significantly boost her business. She opened her Trump store on Fort Myers Beach just two months ago, and she says the money’s been flowing in. Now, with the president’s arrival, local supporters are looking to up their Trump gear.
There’s only one thing she wishes she could change.
“I think it’s great, I’m sorry I’m stuck in the store and I can’t go try to catch a glimpse but I did tweet him,” Scirrotto said. “Yeah, I tweeted them, but no response yet, but at least he knows he’s welcome here.”