Trump heads to Floridas The Villages, notable for its money and white power video – Business Insider
The Villages, a central Florida retirement community, landed in the headlines last weekend after President Trump retweeted a video where an elderly man shouted ‘white power.’
Trump is traveling to The Villages for an October 23 campaign stop. It’s a reliably conservative community where voting rates obliterate national averages and ‘Make America Great Again’ isn’t just a slogan
Residents of the Villages are also donating $11 to Trump’s reelection campaign for every $1 they donate to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, according to an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission records.
Few communities of comparable size, in the retirement paradise of Florida or elsewhere, have ever contributed so much to a single presidential candidate.
‘There are more Trump flags than anywhere else I’ve seen — and I just drove an RV for 3,000 miles around the South,’ said political consultant Peter Schorsch.
“Great people” is how President Donald Trump described residents of The Villages in a video retweet he’d later delete because an elderly man shouted “white power.”
But don’t expect Trumpworld to forswear Villagers, as residents in the central Florida retirement mecca call themselves.
Instead, conservatives are doubling down on the community, one of Florida’s most reliably Republican, where voting rates obliterate national averages and “Make America Great Again” isn’t just a slogan, but a financial strategy. Trump is traveling back to The Villages today as he makes his final case for a second term.
People within the five Zip codes that cover The Villages — located about an hour’s drive from Disney World — are together providing Trump’s reelection campaign nearly $11 for every $1 they’re giving presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign, an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission records indicates.
That pencils out to at least $535,000 for Trump through May — or, on average, more than $4 for every resident of The Villages. Few communities of comparable size, in this retirement paradise of the Sunshine State or elsewhere, have ever contributed so much to a single presidential candidate.
Villagers have collectively contributed a comparative pittance to the Biden campaign: about $50,000.
“There are more Trump flags than anywhere else I’ve seen — and I just drove an RV for 3,000 miles around the South,” said Peter Schorsch, a political consultant and publisher of Florida Politics, noting that The Villages residents’ many modest-sized contributions help balance out the Trump campaign’s big-dollar donors. “They’re the Republican equivalent of the small-dollar online donors that Bernie Sanders and AOC cultivate.”
Villagers keep giving and giving and giving
Some Trump backers in The Villages, situated in the middle of what could be the most contested state of the 2020 presidential election, can’t quit giving.
Since the president launched his hunt for reelection cash on the day of his 2017 inauguration — earlier than any president in US history — more than 1,000 people within The Villages’ five Zip codes have responded by making identifiable Trump contributions.
Through May, at least 125 of them have donated 10 or more times.
The Trump 2020 campaign has already collected significantly more cash from The Villages’ residents than it did in 2016, when it raised about $200,000 from them, according to federal records. (The 2016 figure is likely a bit higher because the Trump campaign didn’t then publicly disclose many of its small-dollar donations. It must now since adopting the GOP’s new online fundraising platform called WinRed.)
The Villages’ Trump campaign bankrollers are led by Mark Morse, the community’s own developer. Morse contributed the legal maximum of $5,600 to Trump’s primary and general election effort on Sept. 26, several days before Trump made an official presidential visit to the Villages to ceremonially sign an executive order designed to strengthen Medicare.
Morse, the son of late Republican megadonor H. Gary Morse, is himself a generous GOP contributor, spreading about $200,000 this election cycle among several federal-level political committees, including those of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
A reputation for GOP candidate visits — and sex swingers
As for The Villages itself, its recent star turns — inglorious and otherwise — don’t end with racist pablum during golf-cart Trump parades.
Trump himself declared The Villages “one of the most famous and thriving communities anywhere in Florida, and really anywhere in the world, as far as I’m concerned,” during his visit in October 2019.
Then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney hit all the wrong notes during an impromptu rendition of “America the Beautiful” in 2012.
Tales of Viagra black markets, public drunkenness and a thriving sex swinging scene have earned the The Villages’ tsk-tsks while dinging its Mayberryesque reputation.
None of this phases Al Butler, a resident of The Villages and Sumter County, Florida, commissioner who’s written the Trump campaign several small checks.
“It’s a wonderful place to live. We’re very active people. It’s a melting pot, and this video was really unfortunate — most people here were appalled,” he said.
Butler said he’ll “cringe a little bit when [Trump] goes off half-cocked” on social media. But like many residents of The Villages, he continues to strongly support the president’s economic and “America first” policies, as well as his reelection.
The Villages’ viral retweet hullabaloo likewise hasn’t dampened Stan King’s enthusiasm for a second Trump term.
King, who lives in The Villages, has made 20 separate contributions to the Trump campaign since 2017. They total more than $1,500, “and I’m going to try to give more, even if we’re having some financial setbacks,” he said.
Marsha Shearer and Dee Melvin (L-R) join with others to protest against President Trump in October 2019 before his speech about Medicare at The Villages in central Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Biden campaign isn’t totally ignored
Trump’s retweet could have the opposite effect for The Villages’ small, but vocal coterie of liberals.
Rory Baker, whose husband, Dale Baker, has made more than 30 small-dollar contributions to the Biden campaign, said Trump’s retweet of the “white power” video is not only “disgusting, bigoted and racist,” but motivating, too.
“We’re certainly going to support Joe Biden as much as ever,” Baker said.
Both the Trump and Biden campaigns are aggressively raising money in preparation for their final pushes toward Election Day on Nov. 3.
The Trump campaign enjoyed a significant lead in available cash (more than $108 million entering June) over the Biden campaign (more than $82 million).
But the Biden campaign has been outraising the Trump campaign ever since. Biden ($162 million) had almost four times the cash reserve of Trump ($43.6 million) through Oct. 14, according to FEC records released Thursday.
Both the Trump and Biden campaigns are also buttressed by their respective national party committees as well as a network of super PACs and “dark money” nonprofit organizations, which unlike presidential campaigns themselves, may raise money in unlimited amounts. Significant amounts of that money have been, and will be spent on winning over Florida voters, who rank among the oldest in the nation.
While Biden has effectively no chance of winning over the majority of votes in The Villages — despite a high-profile pro-Biden golf cart parade earlier in October — his campaign is bullish on Florida, on balance.
“Older Floridians are rebuking Donald Trump’s failed policies, specifically his refusal to take the COVID-19 threat seriously, which is coming at the expense of them and their health,” Biden campaign spokesperson Kevin Munoz said. “Older Americans are a part of the broad, diverse coalition we continue to build in Florida to make Donald Trump a one-term president.”
Senior citizens want a “safe and strong America” that includes support for veterans, a robust military, healthy economy and strong foreign policy stance against China and Russia, Trump campaign spokesperson Ken Farnaso said.
“President Trump has delivered on each one of those issues and is leading the great American comeback,” Farnaso said. “On the other hand, Joe Biden’s claim to fame is an over four decade long public record of failures.”
Officials at The Villages didn’t respond to requests for comment.
When Trump leaves the White House sooner or later, might the billionaire developer look to The Villages for real estate opportunities?
Even become a Villager himself?
“I was thinking about moving to The Villages,” Trump mused during his own recent visit last year. “But I just couldn’t leave Mar-a-Lago.”