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At Donald Trump rally in Tampa, supporters remain confident about his chances

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Although Donald Trump’s campaign manager admitted on Sunday that her candidate is trailing to Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, that wasn’t the sentiment of some of the 15,000 fans who filled the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater in Tampa Monday night.

“I think he’s going to win in a landslide,” said Clearwater resident Joe Kotow, who said he didn’t care about any polls.

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“We traveled all through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee,  South Carolina and Georgia. You know how many Clinton signs we saw out in yards? One. The rest were all Trump,” he said.

Other said that people we’re keeping their feelings close to the vest.

“I hope it’s like Brexit,” said Tampa resident Phil Bernier, referring to how pollsters in England were found to have predicted incorrectly that the British citizenry wouldn’t vote to separate from the European Union.  Wearing a “Proud to be Deplorable” t-shirt while waiting outside a concession stand. “The more people that I speak to,  they say they’re for Trump. They say it very quietly because some things have happened.”

“I don’t look at polls, I look at crowds,” said a Tampa woman who would only identify herself by her first name as Josette. “If you look at the crowds, he’s doing fine.”

“I’m not worried about it,” said Tony from Tampa (he too, didn’t want to give his last name). When asked about almost all of the reputable polls showing Clinton in the lead at the moment, Tony said,”I think it’s bullshit.”

Chris Khory from Tampa did have a different take than his compatriots. “I think we’ve got a better chance of losing than winning and I think Donald Trump’s message is getting lost,” he said.

There is one national poll that shows Trump in a dead heat with Clinton – The Investors Business Daily poll. Naturally, Trump began his 40-minute speech in Tampa on Monday night by mentioning that survey.

Some of Trump’s fans admitted that some of his verbal excesses have hurt his chances.

“I’m very frustrated,” said Koury.

“He is his own worst enemy when it comes to stuff like that,” said Bernier. “It’s amazing how he’s gotten through it.”  When asked specifically if there was a particular comment that had him wincing, Bernier said, “Just about every week.”

When asked about Trump’s 2005 comments that appears to have been one of the most damaging things that have happened to his candidacy, Josette said she was nonplussed.

“Everyone’s talked stupid at one time or another,” she said sympathetically. “We knew they were going to come up with something. That’s all they got? Compared to what she’s done?”

Yes, it doesn’t take long to hear the visceral disdain for Hillary Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton makes me sick,” said Manuel Serrano, a native from Spain who now lives in St. Cloud. “She is the biggest liar I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“One hundred percent, that woman is crooked,” said Tony from Tampa.

“To face Hillary as president would be the worst thing for our country,” agreed Phil Bernier.

In his speech, Trump revisited his unveiling of his “contract with America” that he announced over the weekend in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He also discussed his plans to increase funding for local police, eliminate the defense sequester, and rebuilding military planes and ships.

Trump blasted the Affordable Care Act, referring to the news that premiums with the ACA are expected to increase by 22 percent next year. “Even Bill Clinton admitted that Obamacare is the craziest thing in the world,” he said. “He had a rough night when he went home that night, but he was telling the truth.”

Zachary Cox, 26 from Winter Haven, admitted that he was a Bernie Sanders supporter in the primaries, and would be supporting him if he were opposing Trump.  He also agreed with Trump that the election is “rigged.”

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“Look at Facebook numbers. Donald Trump has like 12 million supporters, and Hillary Clinton has maybe 5 million,” he said while sitting on a  park bench outside the main seating area hours before Trump’s speech. “I feel the media is showing it differently than it actually is. I feel there’s some kind of higher up somewhere and it’s not what it feels like.

And his philosophy could explain a lot of what the Trump movement is all about.

“I’ve always said one of two things are going to happen if he’s elected,” Cox said. “He’s going to be the greatest president we ever had, or he’s going to be the worst. But I feel like that unknown is better than the known like Hillary Clinton.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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