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Ivanka Trump visits Tampa, continuing campaign focus on Florida

The invitation-only crowd consisted of local party activists and elected officials.

The Donald Trump presidential campaign continued its intense focus on Florida, and Tampa, with a visit by presidential daughter Ivanka Trump Thursday to two iconic Ybor City spots, the Columbia Restaurant and La Segunda bakery.

At La Segunda, Trump talked to fourth-generation family owners Copeland and Stephanie More, then pushed up the sleeve of her dress and learned how to roll out a loaf of the bakery’s famous Cuban bread under the tutelage of baker Tony Ali. She left with a loaf.

At Columbia, she held what was called a “fireside chat,” but without a fire, with former Florida Attorney General and now Trump adviser Pam Bondi, along with an audience of about 50 invited guests.

Pam Bondi, former Florida Attorney General, on left, talks with Ivanka Trump during a Fireside Chat at the Columbia Restaurant on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

In response to flattering softball questions from Bondi, Trump repeated some of the campaign’s claims about the Trump administration — that Trump created the greatest economy in the nation’s history before it was undermined by the pandemic, that his actions on the pandemic saved countless lives.

“He’s kept more promises than he actually made,” Trump said jokingly.

Ivanka Trump has been a subject of speculation about her own future presidential ambitions, including by her mother, Donald Trump’s former wife Ivana Trump, who said in a recent People magazine interview that her daughter should be the first female president.

In Tampa, Ivanka Trump focused heavily on the recent peace deal between Israel and two Arab nations, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, considered by many the administration’s most significant foreign policy achievement.

“A lot of it was built off the momentum of moving the (U.S.) embassy to Jerusalem,” she said.

Stephanie More, on left, and Copeland More, owners of La Segunda Central Bakery, meet with Ivanka Trump as she visits their business before attending a Fireside Chat with Pam Bondi on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Trump’s husband Jared Kushner, also a Trump White House adviser, worked on the Mideast deal. They have three young children.

Trump said “the foundation is there” for an economic recovery “once we get rid of this plague … we cut taxes, and the president will cut them further if he’s re-elected.”

Asked by an audience member how Donald Trump is feeling, Ivanka Trump said he’s “super-energized.”

“He’s ping-ponging across the country” and recently visited seven states in one day, she said. “He doesn’t get tired … He’s going to leave it all on the field. This is a battle for the heart and soul of our country.”

Pam Bondi, former Florida Attorney General, on left, talks with Ivanka Trump during a Fireside Chat at the Columbia Restaurant on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The invitation-only crowd consisted of local party activists and elected officials, including incoming state House Speaker Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor and Senate President Wilton Simpson of Trilby.

One attendee said invitees were asked not to talk about the event beforehand. Outside, there were no crowds or demonstrators, nor the large and conspicuous police presence typical for such an event.

Responding to the event, Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said in a news release that Ivanka Trump was “papering over the suffering Donald Trump has caused Floridians because he lied to the American people and then failed to act when we needed decisive leadership” on the coronavirus.

“Thousands of my constituents have lost their jobs and, tragically, many have lost their loved ones — but Ivanka Trump came to Tampa today to pat herself and her father on the back.”

Ivanka Trump’s visit follows a Donald Trump visit to Doral July 10, an airport mini-rally at Tampa International Airport July 31 and a visit to Jupiter Sept. 8. Mark Knoller of CBS, who tracks Trump’s travels, called the Sept. 8 visit Trump’s 46th to Florida since taking office.

But despite the attention, Republicans may face an uphill battle trying to win Hillsborough County in November. With registration closing for the election Oct. 20, Democrats have a larger lead over Republicans in voter registration than in 2016, when Clinton won the county by seven percentage points.

Asked whether the county can swing back red, county Republican Party Chairman Jim Waurishuk said, “We’re working real hard to do that — I think we’re going to do that by Democrats who feel disenfranchised by their party.”

He said he expects more Tampa airport stops by Trump in the immediate future.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.

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