Trump slams 'phony polls', cherry-picks favourable ones in attempt to rally supporters

Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Oct 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.
Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Oct 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Faced with the nearly impossible task of catching up to Mrs Hillary Clinton, Mr Donald Trump is devoting his energy to a supercharged schedule of rallies, small-group meetings and local news interviews.

Just about everywhere he went Monday (Oct 24), he expressed worry that news coverage about his lagging poll numbers will keep his supporters away from voting booths, and, in must-win Florida, he worked to reassure voters that the truth is that he's ahead.

"It's called voter suppression. Because people will say, 'Oh, Trump's down,'" he said at a rally in St. Augustine, on his second day of a three-day swing in the state, where early voting started on Monday. "Folks, we're winning."

The 70-year-old Republican presidential nominee's day started at his Doral hotel in Miami, which he followed with a private fund-raiser at Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Palm Beach. After a quick flight aboard his jet, he headed via motorcade to Boynton Beach for a stop at Bedner's Market, a pumpkin patch and produce stand.

Mr Trump told a small, hand-picked audience of farmers and supporters inside a tiki-roofed picnic shelter that polls that show him losing are "heavily weighted" with Democrats, "like the ABC phony poll that just came out. Phony, phony poll."

An ABC News tracking poll released on Sunday (Oct 23) found Mrs Clinton leads Mr Trump by 12 percentage points among likely voters nationally, 50 to 38 per cent.

 
 
 

"If you read the New York Times and if you read some of these phony papers - these are phony, disgusting, dishonest papers - but if you read the stuff, it's like, 'What are we doing?'" he said. "The truth is I think we're winning."

He cited an Investor's Business Daily national tracking poll that over the weekend showed him ahead by 2 percentage points, but on Monday showed the race tied. A CNN/ORC national poll released on Monday, however, showed Mrs Clinton with a 5-point lead.

The Associated Press calculates that, in states that are either solidly Democratic or are leaning that way, Mrs Clinton will likely claim 272 electoral votes, while Mr Trump can count on only 179 electoral votes in either solidly or leaning Republican states.

But in a fund-raising memo to supporters on Monday, Ms Kellynanne Conway, Mr Trump's campaign manager, said her calculations show Mr Trump "can reliably claim 266 electoral votes" because polls in the past month showed him winning Iowa, Ohio, Maine, Florida, Nevada and North Carolina. Then Mr Trump just needs one of three others, she said: New Hampshire or Colorado or Pennsylvania.

"Hillary can claim 193," Ms Conway wrote.

In St. Augustine, known as the nation's oldest permanently occupied European-established settlement, Mr Trump met with 30 law enforcement officials and first responders at a roundtable meeting.

"First of all, I think we're winning," Mr Trump said. "I actually think we're winning, despite what you hear from these very dishonest people."

He gestured to the cluster of reporters at the back of the conference room at the St. Johns County sheriff's department.

Several of the uniformed officials told Mr Trump how grateful they are for his support. Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey assured him that "public safety stands with you 100 per cent, sir. We are honoured to stand with you."

At his rally at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, Mr Trump told the wildly cheering audience of about 4,000 people that "75 per cent of the American people, based on all polls, think our country is heading on the wrong track".

He offered a spirited defence for his campaign, arguing that no matter their worry - crime, illegal immigration, Obamacare or a long list of other issues - he has answers.

"We're going to solve the riddle of what's going on in Washington," he told them.

In between events, Mr Trump rode in the back seat of a black SUV with his press secretary, Ms Hope Hicks, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of his closest advisers, as he carried out other business, including telephoning in interviews to radio stations in New Hampshire and North Carolina.

After a flight to Tampa, Mr Trump's staff guided him into a private room where he was introduced to about a dozen combat veterans and relatives of soldiers killed in action.

"We have many thousands of people, but we have time for you folks," he said, as the sounds of cheering could be heard from the nearby MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre where his final rally of the day was about to begin.

One gray-haired veteran talked about his service-related disability, and a Gold Star father shared with Mr Trump some emotional comments about survivor's guilt.

"Come here," Mr Trump said to console him, taking the father's outstretched hand. "We're fighting hard. I think we're leading actually."

Before a crowd of at least 10,000 in Tampa, he summed up his case to voters. "I will win, because I know how to win," Mr Trump said.