- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. — George Gold has voted Democrat in every presidential election since he cast his first ballot for John F. Kennedy in 1960, but he is breaking the streak this year to back Donald Trump, caught up in the anti-establishment fervor that has become the Republican nominee’s best hope for a Nov. 8 surge against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Gold, a Jewish New Yorker who moved to the Sunshine State two decades ago, is an unexpected rider on the Trump train, and his unbridled excitement about upending the status quo in Washington demonstrates the enthusiasm gap benefiting Mr. Trump.

“I want a change. I want to shake things up in Washington,” said Mr. Gold, a 78-year-old owner of a small publishing business. “People in the United States have just had enough. Even if you think there are questions about Trump, the country needs a change. We are going downhill, and [Mrs. Clinton] represents the cronyism, the favors, the pay to play.”

Mr. Trump tapped into the anti-establishment undercurrents that have been building in the electorate for decades. He is relying on the energy of the moment to put him over the top in Florida and other battleground states on his narrow path to the 270 electoral votes needed to take the White House.

The stunning announcement Friday that the FBI has reopened its investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s secret email setup as secretary of state threatens to widen her enthusiasm gap.

The gap already was recognizable even to Mrs. Clinton’s die-hard supporters.

“I’m not jumping up and down and clapping my hands,” said Willis Williams, 60, a retired federal employee who attended Mrs. Clinton’s rally last week in a riverside park in downtown Tampa.

He said the rally, which drew several thousand people, would help generate more energy behind the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.

“I think it’s going to increase,” Mr. Williams said.

Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, said the disparate enthusiasm levels could determine the outcome in what appears to be a close race in the state.

A New York Times/Siena poll showed Mr. Trump ahead of Mrs. Clinton by 4 percentage points in Florida, 46 percent to 42 percent. It helped make the Real Clear Politics rolling average of polls in the state a tie.

The polling average showed a virtual dead heat in Ohio, another crucial battleground, with Mr. Trump edging out Mrs. Clinton by a statistically insignificant 1 percentage point.

“The core Trump supporters are still just rabidly excited about him. It’s just amazing the numbers he is turning out,” said Mr. Jewett, a researcher on Florida politics. “It reminds me, in an ironic way because they have almost nothing else alike, of Barack Obama and his first run when he would just get thousands of people showing up and they would get so excited at his events.”

Mr. Obama rode a wave of excitement and thirst for political change to a decisive victory 2008. The enthusiasm — and voter turnout — decreased in his 2012 re-election win, and the energy level further diminished for Mrs. Clinton.

However, her crowds have grown in the final stretch of the race. Her campaign was taken by surprise by the long line in Tampa. They had to turn away at least 1,000 supporters because the park was fenced off to accommodate only 2,000 people in front of the stage.

Still, the Clinton crowd paled in comparison with the more than 20,000 people who filled a nearby amphitheater two days earlier to see Mr. Trump.

Gesturing to the throng at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater, Tom Sachs said he absolutely agreed with Mr. Trump that the political system is rigged.

“This is proof pudding that the American people are not going to stand for it,” said Mr. Sachs, a 63-year-old jazz musician and independent voter.

He said he is confident that Mr. Trump will win the White House next week.

Graciela Merrette, 45, a naturalized U.S. citizen who fled the economic and political collapse in Argentina 20 years ago, gave voice to the urgency of Mr. Trump’s followers.

“He’ll turn this country around from becoming Third World like where I’m from — Argentina. Lot’s of corruption. Lot’s of lies. Lot’s of throw bones for one vote and forget you,” she said.

Mrs. Merrette, a devout Catholic, said she wholeheartedly supports Mr. Trump’s plan to build a wall on the southern border and opposes what she called Mrs. Clinton’s plan to “redistribute wealth.”

“If you’re poor, you’re poor. If you’re rich, you’re rich. You have to do it for yourself,” she said. “That’s something else that happened in my country.”

Standing in line for the Clinton rally, 84-year-old retiree Bill Beard said he was worried.

“We’re a little nervous. We want to make sure we win,” he said. “That’s why we are here.”

Christina Finell said she was “super excited” to see Mrs. Clinton for what could be her last campaign stop in the area, but she, too, could see the enthusiasm gap.

“Democrats are a little more low-key than the Republicans can be, except with Obama,” said the 49-year-old businesswoman. “I think there is a lot of support coming from Democrats, but they’re not as boisterous about it.”

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