• Trump says 'Florida will become another Venezuela' under GOP opponent in gov. race

    By: Kevin Williams and Christopher Heath, WFTV.com

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - President Donald Trump visited Orlando Monday to speak at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual convention.

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    It was the president's first public appearance since his Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, just barely cleared the final hurdle for Senate confirmation. Kavanaugh had been accused of sexual misconduct by several women. 

    The president's visit, which was not a campaign-style rally, also came less than a month before the midterm elections and as Hurricane Michael barrels toward Florida's panhandle.

    WFTV's Christopher Heath was the only reporter in Central Florida to interview the president one-on-one. Heath and Trump spoke about Monday's police convention, Trump's presidency thus far, how Florida is a "second home" to Trump, and the midterm elections. Trump also went after Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

    Republicans and the midterms

    The president attended Monday's event with Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate. Absent was Ron DeSantis, the Republican gubernatorial candidate. Trump backed DeSantis during the primary, but some have questioned whether DeSantis is still in Trump's good graces after the congressman said he disagreed with the president's statement on the death toll in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

    "Ron DeSantis is a winner. He's been with me the whole way," Trump said.

    The president added his team is finalizing plans for a campaign rally for DeSantis before the Nov. 6 election, although no date has been set. 

    "It will be a big rally and Ron deserves it. He is a hard worker, he is a great congressman," Trump said.

    Perhaps making this easier is the president's poll numbers, which have improved lately.

    "Everyone wants my endorsement. They all want my endorsement," Trump said.

    Democrats and the midterms

    While talking about DeSantis, the president also brought up his opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum. Trump slammed Gillum in vague terms, using neither Gillum's name nor the city in which he is mayor.

    "[DeSantis'] opponent runs a place that has a lot of problems and I know it very well, but it's got a lot of problems, tremendous corruption, tremendous crime," Trump said. 

    The president brought up Gillum again a moment later, speaking again without using the words "Gillum" or "Tallahassee."

    "[DeSantis'] opponent runs an area and a city that's got among the worst statistics in the country and certainly in the state," Trump said. "If his [DeSantis'] opponent gets elected, you'll have Venezuela -- Florida will become another Venezuela, and that is not good."

    Gillum responded to Trump's remarks Monday morning on Twitter.

    Trump's second home

    "The state of Florida is essentially my home. I'm here all the time and I love it," Trump said. "I spend a lot of time in Miami. We have a lot of people in Florida that I've been -- in my previous life -- that are with us all the way, and it's a great state, we love Florida."

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