- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2016

ORLANDO, Fla. — Donald Trump’s backers are responding to his complaints about illegal immigration, Hillary Clinton’s backers say Mr. Trump is unfit for office — and voters on both sides say the Supreme Court is of paramount importance as early voting began Monday in this crucial battleground state.

Edwardo Arenas emerged from the polling place and rattled off a list of reasons why he voted for Mr. Trump. The Supreme Court topped the list, as he looked to Mr. Trump to nominate conservative justices who would protect the Second Amendment and other liberties.

He also got riled up about illegal immigration, which has been the cornerstone of the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign.

“You have to protect your borders,” said the 50-year-old truck driver of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent. “I don’t know what people don’t understand about ‘illegal.’ You don’t have to bring all the poor people to your country. We all end up paying for them with higher taxes.”

“Americans first, and Americans means all U.S. citizens,” he said.

An elderly white woman passing by overheard the comment and gave a thumbs-up to Mr. Arenas.

The first day of early voting often demonstrates the energy of the base in Central Florida, the population hub along Interstate 4 that runs from Tampa through Orlando to Daytona Beach and often proves decisive in presidential elections.

The region, known as the I-4 Corridor, is essential to Mr. Trump’s strategy in the Sunshine State, which is a must-win for the Republican presidential nominee because it is virtually impossible form him to cobble together the 270 electoral voters to win the White House without Florida’s 29. Mrs. Clinton holds a 3.8-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

Florida election officials said heavy turnout at the start of early voting was similar to the levels of 2012, and they expected the crowds to taper off as Election Day on Nov. 8 draws closer.

The steady stream of voters at the Orange County supervisor of elections office echoed TV ads that have been pounding Central Florida for weeks, with the exception of the Supreme Court issue that is absent from most campaign advertising but nevertheless reflects a sharp ideological divide in a race otherwise dominated by the personalities of the two major-party candidates.

Lavon Bracy, a 67-year-old retired church administrator, looked to Mrs. Clinton to keep her pledge to appoint justices who will help advance a liberal agenda, including putting restrictions on gun rights and protecting same-sex marriage and abortion.

The prominence of the Supreme Court issue suggested that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump were turning out their bases. It has been a concern for both campaigns because of the high unfavorable ratings of the candidates.

Mrs. Bracy, who is active in the local Democratic Party, also railed against the character of Mr. Trump, which has been Mrs. Clinton’s chief argument.

“He’s unstable. He’s shown he’s unstable,” said the retired church administrator.

She accused Mr. Trump of mistreating women, another theme of the Clinton campaign.

“He thinks because he is a billionaire he can do whatever he wants to do,” said Mrs. Bracy, citing the women who recently came forward to accuse him of inappropriate touching and his having called women “dogs” and “pigs.”

Edgar Rodriguez, 66, said Donald Trump was unpredictable and dangerous.
“It’s like Russian roulette,” said Mr. Rodriguez.

He said he didn’t intend to reference Mrs. Clinton’s assertion that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to get Mr. Trump elected, but he laughed when he realized the implication.

“You can’t run a government like a business. It’s to serve everybody, not make a profit,” he said.

Each county sets the date for early voting. Other counties open early voting on Saturday.

Before in-person voting commenced, more than 1 million Floridians had voted by mailing in absentee ballots.

Mrs. Clinton has been hammering Mr. Trump with TV ads that feature Republican voters saying they are crossing over to oppose him because he is unfit to serve as president and is a poor role model for children, especially girls.

In one ad, a woman identified as a Republican and an Afghanistan War veteran says she is voting for Mrs. Clinton because of Mr. Trump’s insults of women as “dogs, pigs and bimbos.”

“That’s not the America I fought for,” she says.

The most common TV ad from the Trump campaign in Central Florida features a woman whose son was brutally killed — bludgeoned, doused with gasoline and lit on fire — by an illegal immigrant.

“The man who murdered Joshua is an illegal alien, and he should not have been here,” she says, tears welling in her eyes. “Hillary Clinton’s border policy is going to allow people into the country just like the one that murdered my son.”

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