ST. AUGUSTINE — A defiant Donald Trump blamed his worsening campaign struggles on "phony polls" from the "disgusting" media on Monday, fighting to energize his most loyal supporters as his path to the presidency shrinks.
Just 14 days until the election, the Republican nominee campaigned in battleground Florida as his team conceded publicly as well as privately that crucial Pennsylvania may be slipping away. That would leave a razor-thin pathway to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House on Nov. 8.
Despite continued difficulties with women and minorities, Trump refuses to soften his message in the campaign's final days to broaden his coalition. The strategy leaves no margin for error. Yet Trump offered an optimistic front in the midst of a three-day tour through Florida as thousands began voting in person.
"I believe we're actually winning," Trump declared during a round table discussion with farmers gathered next to a local pumpkin patch.
A day after suggesting the First Amendment to the Constitution may give the press too much freedom, he insisted that the media are promoting biased polls to discourage his supporters from voting.
"The media isn't just against me. They're against all of you," Trump told cheering supporters later in St. Augustine. "They're against what we represent."
With Trump on the defensive, Democrat Hillary Clinton worked to slam the door on his candidacy in swing state New Hampshire while eyeing a possible Democratic majority in the Senate.
Trump's team has publicly acknowledged in recent days that he's behind.
His campaign manager Kellyanne Conway outlined a path to 270 electoral votes on Sunday that banks on victories in Florida, Ohio, Iowa and North Carolina along with New Hampshire and Maine's 2nd congressional district. Assuming Trump wins all of those — and he currently trails in some — he would earn the exact number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency and no more.
Florida was largely the focus on Monday as in-person early voting began across 50 counties, including the state's largest: Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach. Remaining counties will start in the coming week.
Early voting by mail has been underway for weeks. Nearly 1.2 million voters in Florida have already mailed in ballots.