GOP chair offers sunny outlook for Trump

Florida GOP chairman Blaise Ingoglia says Trump staying on message

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Just in time for the final two months of the campaign, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is headed in the right direction to clinch Florida's 29 electoral votes, according to state GOP chairman Blaise Ingoglia.

"I think he's doing much better now than he was a month or so ago," Ingoglia said Thursday during an interview in downtown Tallahassee. "He's been staying on message, and he's been getting that message out."

August was an eventful month for Trump, a real-estate mogul in his first serious run for political office.

The nominee feuded with the family of a fallen Muslim soldier and suggested that supporters of the Second Amendment would take unspecified action to stop Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton from appointing liberal Supreme Court justices.

Trump eventually shook up his campaign and has recently taken steps to soften his tone, if not necessarily his policy proposals, on issues like illegal immigration. He hastily arranged a meeting with the president of Mexico, a nation that Trump has frequently criticized on the campaign trail.

All that came shortly before Labor Day, which traditionally marks the start of the general election, as voters return from their vacations and pay more attention to political news.

Ingoglia said Trump's support might be understated in many polls, which show a tight race in Florida and across the country.

The idea of a "shadow Trump vote" has been hotly disputed, but Ingoglia stood by the idea that 150,000 Floridians who probably won't show up in polls of likely voters turned out for the Republican presidential primary in March.

How much would that swing the polls? By as much as a percentage point or even a point and a half, Ingoglia estimated, an amount that could prove critical in a state like Florida.

The party chairman also shrugged off the idea that Clinton's ground game is necessarily superior to Trump's in Florida. Democrats point to the fact that Clinton has far more offices and employees than Trump in the state, something that could help her mobilize supporters in November --- and before, in a state with as much early voting as Florida.

It's actually the opposite, Ingoglia contended.

He said Clinton's campaign is trying to catch up to the state and national GOP operations that have been gearing up for almost two years now.

It's better to rely on that than to try to build an organization in the short period before the voting, Ingoglia said.

"We have learned from the past two elections that just parachuting in four months before an election really doesn't cut it," he said.

Trump, who will campaign Friday night in Pensacola, likely needs Florida more than Clinton does.

The former secretary of state has several paths to 270 electoral voters that don't involve winning Florida --- President Barack Obama clinched re-election in 2012 before the results here were announced --- but it's hard to see a Trump victory without the Sunshine State in his column.

Of course, it's not unusual for the chair of either major party to talk up his or her nominee in the run-up to a general election, or to downplay any major organizational weaknesses. The results in November could show which approach worked better this time around.