/In adult Disney World, Trump will escape critics

In adult Disney World, Trump will escape critics

President Donald Trump | Getty Images

Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Florida by only some 113,000 votes out of 9.4 million cast in the presidential race. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE— If ever there was a warm and inviting place for President Donald Trump right now, it’s in the spotless sunshine of a retirement community called The Villages.

On Thursday, Trump will ditch the impeachment fervor of the nation’s capital for central Florida, where residents of The Villages will greet him with a golf cart parade. Gov. Ron DeSantis — who last week launched a “presidential protection fund” — will be on hand, and a famous Trump fan, actor Stephen Baldwin, will be in town to keynote the community’s second annual Trump Day Dinner.

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“It’s going to be quite a day,” said David Gee, founder of Villagers for Trump, a 2,000-member group that organized the golf cart parade. “We’ve got some of the most passionate Trump supporters than anywhere else.”

This 33,000-acre enclave north west of Orlando, with its 100 miles of golf paths, is a GOP bastion where Republicans outnumber Democrats more than two to one. The median age is nearly 71. The sprawling development, sometimes likened to an adult Disney World, has swimming pools, themed town squares and a plethora of faux historical markers. Indicted former Trump adviser Roger Stone has been an occasional visitor.

The Villages is “older, white, Republican as hell,” said Rick Wilson, a Republican political consultant in Florida and fervent Trump critic. “In short, it’s a perfect lab for Trump and Trumpism.”

Trump’s trip to friendly territory comes at a critical juncture for his presidency. House Democrats are pushing their inquiry into whether the president pressured foreign leaders to advance his political interests. And as the 2020 election season kicks into high gear, a new poll shows growing voter support for impeachment.

Trump probably needs the break. On Wednesday, he lashed out at his Democratic interrogators, accusing them on Twitter of “wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT.” He called House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff a “lowlife” and said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “incapable” of working with him on issues such as prescription drug costs and trade.

But in The Villages and other Trump enclaves, impeachment talk is just “doubling down” supporters’ belief in the president, said Sen. Dennis Baxley, whose district includes The Villages.

“He’s getting a lot of sympathy for being under attack by much of the media and Democrats who will say and do anything,” Baxley said. “They are totally obsessed with destroying him.”

Trump won’t hold one of his signature political rallies on Thursday. Instead, he’s expected to sign an executive order calling for further privatization of Medicare, a move that will emphasize the differences between the president and his leading Democratic challengers, who support increasing government’s role in health care.

John Temple, chairman of the Sumter County Republican Party, said he was deluged with requests for tickets to the Trump event.

Florida is a cornerstone of the president’s reelection strategy, and that means pumping up enthusiasm in areas such as The Villages.

Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Florida by only some 113,000 votes out of 9.4 million cast in the presidential race. That margin was helped greatly by an 84 percent turnout in Sumter County — where the heart of The Villages is located — which went heavily for Trump.

Ryan Tyson, a Republican and Florida-based pollster, calls the community Trump’s “honey hole.” His data shows that one demographic that stands strongly with the president is older white voters. And that’s the makeup of The Villages, which bills itself as “Florida’s friendliest hometown.”

“There will be never be a scenario where this state is not a battleground,” Tyson said. “Our demographics don’t allow for it.”

The Villages is spread over three central Florida counties where nearly 300,000 people are enrolled in some form of Medicare, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The retirement community was developed by former GOP donor Gary Morse, who died in 2014, and has become a favorite stop for Republican candidates. Trump’s visit has created a buzz in the community, which hasn’t had seen a sitting president since George W. Bush stopped by in 2004.

“We’re excited to have our president come into our hometown,” Temple said. “The people who support our president are passionate 365 days a year.”

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