TAMPA, Fla. — President Trump is set to announce his bid for reelection in Orlando on June 18, which speaks volumes about Florida's significance in the 2020 election.
Why did he pick Florida?
Florida has 29 electoral votes, one of the largest distributions of votes in the electoral college, only behind Texas and California and equal to the number of votes allocated to New York.
The sunshine state is not only heavily contested for electoral votes, but also for its swing state status and ability to fluctuate politically and ideologically.
President Donald Trump's choice of Orlando as his planned upcoming presidential reelection announcement location came as no surprise to some.
"Florida is a critical state for the president and [President Trump] knows that," said Susan MacManus, retired University of South Florida Political Science professor. "It's very symbolic that he's choosing Florida to announce his candidacy - there's a political significance of winning and everyone knows that significance."
She adds the importance of keeping Trump's base energized throughout Florida, adding that they were very important to both Governor Ron DeSantis' and Senator Rick Scott's recent campaign successes as well.
"Orlando is an area of the state that's known to the whole world," MacManus said. "When people think Florida, they think tourism, and Orlando comes to mind."
She emphasized the importance of the voters along the I-4 corridor area.
"Suburban areas typically have a good voter turnout, and if he can combine the Hispanic vote while also increasing the support in the suburban areas - it could be critical to his success," MacManus explained.
She says the president likely factored in the significance of Orlando's media market, which is one of the largest in Florida.
"Anytime something happens in Florida, it gets national and international attention," MacManus said.
From a logistical standpoint, Chairman Jim Waurishuk of the Hillsborough County Republican Party provided some insight.
He said officials were originally considering having President Trump's reelection announcement in either Hillsborough County or Orlando.
"My understanding is that Orlando came up with a venue to handle 22,000 people at the Amway Center, and it didn't pan out as well in Hillsborough," Waurishuk said.
He adds that campaign events have been held at the Florida State Fairgrounds, the Florida Amphitheatre, the Tampa Convention Center, and the USF Sun Dome. He says unless the presidential campaign is able to get availability at places like Amalie Arena or Raymond James Stadium, it's hard to get close to that amount locally.
"The venue choice also depends on the owners and managers of the venue, making sure there aren't any date conflicts with other events - it's a big logistics piece of the puzzle," Waurishuk said. "He needed a large, accommodating rally to officially kick-off his reelection campaign for 2020."
He says not to count out Hillsborough County for upcoming campaign events, however, as it remains a critical county for Trump's reelection and the Republican Party of Florida.
Waurishuk adds the U.S. Secret Service and the White House go directly to the venue for particular date availability. He predicts the president will be in Hillsborough County between three to five times between the summer and 2020. Trump will most likely host future rallies at the Florida State Fairgrounds as well, he adds.
Around how much is his reelection campaign going to cost taxpayers?
"Trump started fundraising and raising money for his campaign basically as soon as he won the presidency [in 2016]," MacManus said.
His Democratic opponents, on the other hand, will need to raise money for both the primary and for the campaign before the election, giving him somewhat of an advantage for funding, MacManus adds.
She said that while he's been successful in fundraising, and both the national Republican and local parties may be putting in some money for his campaign, taxpayers could still be footing the cost of security for the events. The cost of security could extend to his family members, as well, due to prior threats.
Local police agencies will absorb the cost of security for the upcoming Orlando presidential visit, which is the protocol for every presidential visit, a spokesperson for the office of the Orlando mayor told 10News.
"This is true whether or not a Democratic or Republican is running," MacManus said. "Local governments have to help pay for it, and the campaigns will sometimes reimburse."
Taxpayers are typically only on the hook for President Trump's visits if it is for official business. NPR reports four such trips early on in Trump's presidency cost taxpayers $13.6 million, or around $3.4 million each.
For campaign trips, the president's campaign will help pay for the travel costs, as required by law. But, taxpayers will still help with the normal costs of protecting the commander in chief.
According to Congressional Research Service, when travel involves both official and political functions, the White House uses a formula to determine how much airfare is to be paid by the traveler, and how any per diem and other travel related costs are to be paid by the government.
When asked about the cost to taxpayers for Trump's 2018 visit to the Florida State Fairgrounds, a spokesperson for Hillsborough County says there wasn't a large impact. The county said the only likely cost for the county came from manning the fire rescue truck at the campaign rally. The budget of the staff was already built into the cost, and there was no overtime for staff at the event, the county adds. However, it was not immediately clear how much local taxpayers paid for security. 10News put in an official public record request on the total amount taxpayers paid for Trump's 2018 presidential visit, which will be updated once it is processed.
Could his visits to Florida and potential reelection affect the economy?
President Trump's campaign has agreed to an estimated $144,267.83 contract to rent out the Orlando Amway Center for his reelection campaign announcement, according to the office of the Orlando mayor. In addition to the Amway Center's earnings, local businesses could reap the benefits of the influx of visitors.
The cost will be covered by the campaign due to its status as a rally, which is not considered official business for the president.
"Our economy is so diverse - people [outside of Florida] don't realize that about Florida," MacManus said. "If things are good, people are more willing to adopt the status quo, meaning [the economy] pretty much dominates everything else."
People who are having a hard time putting food on the table and facing unemployment normally have a different impression and tend to vote against the status quo, she adds.
MacManus says Trump is especially attentive to anything that happens at MacDill Airforce Base and has been pushing for more relief in the panhandle following recent hurricane devastation. This, in turn, could lead to more funding from the federal government.
"[Trump] is certainly going to be here a lot - he's going to want to talk about the things he's brought to Florida and what he's done," MacManus said. "Democrats will talk about taxpayer costs and the traffic it creates; you have both of those sides of the story. All of these things can affect opinions as well."
At the end of the day, presidential visits can have a positive and negative effect, especially if it affects your commute to work, she added.
President Trump coming to Hillsborough County and locally is an overall good thing for the economy, Waurishuk argues.
"The more people we bring and have in Hillsborough, the better [for the economy," Waurishuk said.
10News reached out to the Florida State Fairgrounds about the cost of Trump's 2018 visit. A spokesperson is working on getting that information.
What is the potential political impact of President Trump's reelection here in Florida?
"When Trump comes to the state, that state becomes the focus," MacManus said.
She adds that Trump's upcoming Orlando campaign rally will be a focal point for both political parties.
She says she expects fireworks both inside and outside of the rally.
"There's going to be a large crowd of Democrats demonstration against him, they're already organizing people to stand outside and rally against him," MacManus said. "That's going to get almost as much attention as [Trump]. It's important to both parties who want to win the presidency."
Waurishuk says the local Republican party will have a number of people assisting with the Orlando and future Trump campaigning efforts. He also expressed his excitement for the potential political impact of Trump's campaigning and possible reelection.
At a more local level, Waurishuk says the group is hosting a "MAGA meet-up" in Ybor City Friday night to celebrate Trump's birthday and upcoming campaign. He's hopeful the excitement and momentum of his visits will continue to be felt in our area, noting the momentum of Trump's 2018 visit at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Hillsborough County.
"Certainly, Republicans are excited and we're getting regular inquiries on what's going on," Waurishuk said.
He adds the Republican party has been able to attract disenfranchised groups and voters dissatisfied by the other side, emphasizing to the support the party has seen at the grassroots level.
From a statewide perspective, Waurishuk adds DeSantis and Scott will play a pivotal role in getting Trump reelected.
"As a county party, we look at senior elected officials, whether a senator or president - and how it affects how people vote," he said. "The hope is people will vote down party lines on the ballot."
Waurishuk says the party tries to highlight the Republicans running in the election cycle during presidential visits.
"When Trump comes to Hillsborough County, we try to put a number of [Republican] elected officials and candidates on stage and in close proximity to him in order to be recognized," Waurishuk adds.
If Trump faces successful reelection, the party remains hopeful for the momentum in other elections, from the race for the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate over the next four years, to county commissioner seats.
"We anticipate the second successful presidential election will certainly bring people out to vote, and our job as the Republican party is to make sure they vote Republican," Waurishuk said.
What are the main issues politicians will likely focus on?
Florida also has a lot of age diversity, from millennials, Generation Z, and Generation X, which are now larger than their baby boomer counterparts, MacManus says. With that, every generation comes with its own set of values and beliefs.
"Increasingly you see campaigns using the generation, not age group to better create voter outreach and mobilization," MacManus said.
Along with age diversity, MacManus adds Florida has a racial and ethnic diversity, which could also affect voter outcomes and values as well.
"The racial and ethnic diversity is something that campaign people know about, even though people in the general public don't think about it," MacManus said. "[Florida] is the growth and immigration magnet state from all over the world."
Immigration is a big part of Trump's campaign, MacManus adds, and was a significant issue for people who voted for both DeSantis and Scott as well. The big driving force for many Democrats in 2018, on the other hand, was healthcare and guns.
The two political parties did seem to agree on the importance of three issues, however, MacManus adds. She says the environment, healthcare, and education are big issues for both political parties in Florida.
She adds it's premature to know exactly which issues voters will care about for the election due to news saturation cycles, which can put certain issues in the forefront right before the election.
"Issues in the forefront can change the entire way people are looking to vote," MacManus said.
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