MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Donald Trump is making a South Florida campaign stop but not without a battle – of traffic that is.
The GOP front-runner will be at the Trump National Doral on Friday, October 23rd, at 7 p.m. but the visit is right in the middle of one of South Florida’s most congested areas.
Due to ongoing road construction and the number of people expected to attend, traffic around the resort near 87th Avenue and SW 41st Street is heavy so if you are planning to attend leave yourself plenty of time.
The City of Doral sent a special notice out to residents warning them of the anticipated traffic congestion between 12 p.m. and 10 p.m. The notice recommends that they avoid Doral Boulevard, 33rd Street and 87th Avenue.
“There’s always back roads you can take, I just recommend that you don’t take the main roads as much as you can,” said Gonzalo Vera who drives in Doral all the time.
Trump’s rally in Doral is his first in Florida since he began running for president. On Saturday, he will head to Jacksonville.
“Trump’s coming down because he realizes he has a real chance of winning this nomination,” said Charles Zelden, a political science professor at Nova Southeastern University.
Zelden thinks with Trump now in second place in Iowa behind Doctor Ben Carson, he’s looking ahead.
“In order to win the nomination, he needs to win more than just the first races. He has to win super Tuesday and the central star of super Tuesday is Florida which has the most delegates,” said Zelden.
And it’s likely no coincidence that his first stop in Florida is the backyard of hometown rivals Former Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio.
“With both Bush and Rubio coming from Florida, if Trump can win Florida, it sends a very strong statement that he is legit, that he has the wherewithal to go to the convention and potentially to win in the general election,” said Zelden.
While Florida doesn’t hold its winner-take-all primary until March 15th, Trump recently brought on a Florida state campaign director and plans to open a Sarasota office in early November, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said. The campaign is also expected to announce the hiring of multiple state co-chairs shortly and expects to bring in additional staffers.
Jeb Bush’s campaign headquarters are in Miami and he’s opened field offices in Miami and Tampa. Senator Marco Rubio’s campaign headquarters are in Washington; he has field offices in early primary states but none so far in Florida.
For Trump, the prize could be a chance to knock out two major rivals on their home turf. A University of North Florida poll of likely Republican primary voters out this week found Trump with the support of 22 percent. Carson, who also lives in the state, had 19 percent. Marco Rubio was third with 15 percent and Jeb Bush fourth with 9 percent.
Michael Binder, a University of North Florida pollster and political science professor, said Trump’s “shine is starting to wear off,” noting his approval percentage was the lowest in recent statewide polls.
Longtime operatives and pollsters in the state say that like many potential voters nationwide, many Republicans in Florida are looking for a change. While Trump has never taken up residence in the state, he has a home in Palm Beach as well as several business ventures, and is well known in philanthropic circles.
Jamie Miller, former executive director of the state Republican party, said Florida has been receptive to outsider candidates. In 1992, he noted, Ross Perot won nearly 20 percent of the state’s vote. Gov. Rick Scott is another former businessman who won as a rookie politician in 2010 after spending $70 million of his own cash.
State Rep. Neil Combee, who represents a stretch of central Florida, said the buzz for Trump is unmistakable.
“People are dissatisfied with the direction the country’s going in,” said Combee, who is supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. “It’s a phenomenon for sure. And it’s one that I don’t think is going away.”
Emilio Garcia, 73, and Manuel Alvarez, 76, both Cuban exiles and longtime Republican voters, also dismissed Bush and Rubio because they represent the “old Republican guard.” They prefer a non-politician and especially like Trump.
“Trump needs to refine what he says, but he speaks the truth,” said Garcia as he chomped on a cigar outside La Carreta, a popular Cuban restaurant chain in Miami not far from Bush’s campaign headquarters.
Alex Conant, Rubio’s campaign spokesman, played down the Florida numbers, saying “polls don’t matter at this stage.”
Rubio has been “up and down in the polls, and he’s currently rising,” said Conant.
For his part, Bush said this week on CNN that Trump is “capturing people’s deep anger and angst about Washington, D.C.” He predicted Trump’s support will wane after voters consider “who has the judgment and the seriousness and the ideas to be president.”
Veteran political strategist Roger Stone, a close Trump friend who previously worked for his campaign and remains a supporter, said Floridians “want something entirely new. He’s a breath of fresh air.”
Not everyone is impressed. Sipping Cuban coffee on a recent afternoon, Enrique Pineiro, 50, said Trump is “un payaso,” or a clown.
“The sum of everything he says is ridiculous,” said Pineiro, who was born and raised in Miami, the son of Cuban immigrants.
He prefers Bush because he liked him when he was the state’s governor for eight years. “I know his story,” Pineiro said.
For more on Campaign 2016, click here.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)