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Trump phones Tampa rally with Kellyanne Conway, Pam Bondi: ‘If we lose...it will be a very very bad day for the country'

“People used to come up to me and whisper, ‘I support the president,’” Bondi said. “They were scared. Now they’re wearing their Keep America Great t-shirt proudly.”
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, left, and Kellyanne Conway talk on stage during the Women for Trump "An Evening to Empower" event held at the Tampa Convention Center in downtown on Thursday. ["OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES", OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, left, and Kellyanne Conway talk on stage during the Women for Trump "An Evening to Empower" event held at the Tampa Convention Center in downtown on Thursday. ["OCTAVIO JONES | TIMES", OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Aug. 22
Updated Aug. 24

It’s the economy, stupid.

For those wondering what sales pitch President Donald Trump will make to women voters in 2020, that was the message during Thursday night’s “Women for Trump” rally at the Tampa Convention Center.

Trump surrogates Kellyanne Conway and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi attended the festivities, which was centered around the 99th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment (that’s the one allowing women to vote).

Dubbed “An Evening to Empower,” the event was not to be missed by Trump himself. When Bondi announced he was calling in to rally supporters, the crowd went off.

“I''m so honored because I love Tampa,” Trump told the crowd. “We’re doing great with women despite the fake news.”

RELATED: Donald Trump’s strategy to win women: It’s the economy. Is that enough?

Recent polls show support for him is flagging among white women without college degrees, a bloc that supported him in 2016. Apparently, Trump’s abrasive politics are turning off women in critical suburban battlegrounds.

Trump warned of dire consequences if he were to lose.

“It’s going to be easier than last time but let’s pretend it’s going to be tougher,” he said. “If we lose to this competition it will be a very very bad day for the country.”

His audience was ready for the show. An hour before the 6:30 p.m. event, the line to get in snaked down the convention center hallway and around the corner. First in line was Evella Feldhacker, a retiree from Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County.

(From left) Lillian Ridgeway of Sarasota (wearing a red hat), Andrea Stanford of Bradenton, and Evella Feldhacker of Lakewood Ranch are the first supporters waiting in line for the Women for Trump 'An Evening to Empower' event held at the Tampa Convention Center in downtown on Thursday. ["OCTAVIO JONES | TIMES" | Times]

“We want to disprove the myth that women aren’t for Trump,” Feldhacker said. “We are here.”

So was Bondi, who is now a lobbyist for Ballard Partners, a leading Washington and Tallahassee lobbying firm. She touted Trump in an op-ed for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Wednesday.

“The Trump economic boom is making it easier for women, in particular, to succeed in the workplace — the female unemployment rate has gone down to levels not seen since the early-1950s,” Bondi wrote. “Economic security alleviates the stress of mortgages, medical expenses, and child care, and we can thank President Trump for creating an economy that helps women and families succeed.”

Bondi reminded the crowd of her early public support of Trump.

“People used to come up to me and whisper, ‘I support the president,’” Bondi said. “They were scared. Now they’re wearing their Keep America Great t-shirt proudly.”

It’s a bit of a reunion for Bondi and Trump. She drew a lot of attention when she postponed an execution so she could attend a fundraiser in which she received a $25,000 donation from Trump’s foundation. That donation became even more controversial because her attorney general office at the time, unlike New York, didn’t pursue charges against Trump University.

The whole episode became a thing.

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis cancelled an appearance at the event because of another execution.

RELATED STORY: Execution forces Florida’s First Lady to skip Trump rally

Bondi introduced Conway, who got big applause. The senior counselor to Trump was appearing at the political event just months after the U.S. Office of Special Counsel recommended her dismissal for violating the Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from campaigning.

Conway, who declared Florida her favorite state, recounted that she had a bungalow in Broward County when she was a kid. Florida was a key part of Trump’s success, she told the audience.

“As I was standing next to President Trump on election night, when Florida was being called, we knew things that we had been talking about and planning for that were coming true than not,” Conway said.

She rejected the notion that supporting Trump was a betrayal of feminism.

“I’m sick and tired of hearing about women’s issues, which is just a euphemism for abortion,” Conway said. “All issues are women’s issues.”

Upon mentioning Trump’s defeated 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, the crowd began chanting “LOCK HER UP!” But Conway interrupted.

“I don’t care for that — just beating her fairly and squarely at the polls,” she said.

Unprompted, Conway mentioned that Vice President Mike Pence is a good friend and that he “will be on the ticket, promise.”

By the start of the 6:30 event, the room, which seats about 450 people, was filled up.

By about 7:45 p.m., Conway and Bondi had left the stage.

The room emptied, as most of the attendees skipped the part of the event that instructed supporters on how to register others to vote.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an updated version of an earlier version. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi postponed an execution so she could attend a fundraiser.)

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