GOP campaign in Brandon drawing international interest

Sen. Marco Rubio met local and international supporters at the Republican Party of Florida’s Brandon headquarters Monday.
Sen. Marco Rubio met local and international supporters at the Republican Party of Florida’s Brandon headquarters Monday.
Published Nov. 7, 2016

BRANDON — On the day before the presidential election, you might have mistaken the Brandon headquarters of the Republican Party of Florida for Walt Disney World with all the visitors crowding in from out of state.

Two dozen members of the conservative-leaning Austrian People's Party, the nation's biggest, along with 20 British high school students and a volunteer from Texas were among those joining a fellow who's something of a regular here — Sen. Marco Rubio.

The foreign interest underscores the global ramifications of the U.S. presidential campaign and Florida's key role in its outcome.

"Florida is a swing state," said Stefan Schnoell, 28, of Vienna, one of the Austrian volunteers helping their "sister party" get voters to the polls. "This is where the action is. We'll be making calls, phone calls and knocking on doors."

The Austrian group is visiting for three days and leaves the day after today's election.

"We care all over the world who will become president of the United States," Schnoell said. "It is also important who gets senator in Florida"

The British high school students have been traveling Florida for two weeks to witness the campaign, thanks to the Transformation Trust — an educational charity that helps children in need develop new skills.

On Thursday, the students travel to Washington, D.C.

"We're not participating," said Amy Leonard, chief executive of the charity. "We are learning and watching history as it happens. This is a swing state."

Rick McCrary traveled from Dallas to help the Florida Republican Party.

"Every state is important," McCrary said, "and Florida is one of those."

Rubio had a crowd to address when he appeared about 11:15 a.m. with a pep talk for GOP staffers and volunteers.

"We have one day to go," said the candidate, who dropped out of the Senate race for an unsuccessful run as his party's presidential nominee, then re-entered and now faces challenger Patrick Murphy.

Rubio told the gathering about a photograph someone just sent him showing an Olympic racer who lost while looking over his shoulder to see who was behind him.

"We have to run through the tape," he said.

Rubio added that today's voter turnout in Florida is expected to be the lowest in recent history — not for lack of interest but because of early voting.

Hillsborough set a record with early voting: About 49 percent of all registered voters cast ballots before Election Day, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office.

Still, Rubio said, it's no time for Republicans to rest on their laurels.

Millions of people have not voted. He said 270,000 Republicans who requested a mail ballot still had not yet returned them.

In addition, Rubio told the crowd, the ballot contains important races all the way down. He quipped, "We need a Republican dog catcher."

Contact Paul Guzzo at or (813) 226-3394. Follow@pguzzotimes