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WEST PALM BEACH (AP) — While Florida Republicans waited for President Donald Trump in one corner of the state Saturday, Margaritaville king Jimmy Buffett took musical shots at him and Gov. Rick Scott in another as the state’s tight Senate and gubernatorial races reached the final weekend of campaigning.
Performing at a West Palm Beach campaign rally for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who is being challenged by Scott, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running for governor, Buffett urged more than 1,000 people to vote Democratic by tweaking the lyrics of two of his most popular songs.
First, to take a dig at Trump, he changed the wording of “Come Monday” to “Come Tuesday, things will change. Come Tuesday, we’re making a change. It’s been two insane years and it’s time to really switch gears…” The performance was 3 miles (5 kilometers) from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and frequent winter hangout.
Then using “Margaritaville,” he criticized Scott for the state’s environmental problems: “Some people say there’s a red tide to blame, but I know that it’s all Rick Scott’s fault.” Red tide algae have killed millions of fish off the southern Florida coasts over the last several months — it occurs naturally but some scientists say pollution makes it worse. Buffett, who lives in Palm Beach, is an outspoken environmentalist, founding the charity “Save the Manatee” in 1981.
Trump will appear later Saturday in Pensacola with Scott and former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is running against Gillum. Trump also campaigned for Scott and DeSantis on Wednesday near Fort Myers as both races appear tight heading into Tuesday’s election. Nelson is seeking his fourth term, but Democrats have not won the governor’s race since 1994.
Both Scott and Gillum resumed campaigning Saturday after briefly returning to Tallahassee to visit victims and their families of Friday night’s mass shooting at a yoga studio that left two women and the gunman dead and five injured.
Gillum referenced the shooting in his West Palm Beach address, first asking the crowd to keep the victims in their prayers. He then said such mass shootings have become “too familiar” in Florida. In February, 17 died in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland. In 2017, five died at Fort Lauderdale’s airport. And in 2016, 49 died at an Orlando nightclub. Gillum said voters need to “send an unapologetic message to the NRA that their time is up in Florida” and called for tighter gun laws, including tougher background checks and a ban on convicted domestic abusers owning guns.
“We can celebrate what it means to have the Second Amendment and celebrate safety and security in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our houses of worship at the same time,” Gillum said.
Trump takes frequent digs at Gillum and accuses him of running a violent city as he campaigns for DeSantis and Scott. DeSantis won the Republican nomination after receiving Trump’s endorsement, in large part for his appearances on Fox News praising the president’s policies and denouncing the probe led by Robert Mueller into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. Scott is a longtime friend of the president, entering politics in 2010 as a tea party opponent of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“Rick Scott always delivers for the people of Florida,” Trump told Wednesday’s crowd.
Polls show both races to be close and the campaigns targeted their bases with their major events Saturday, holding them in party strongholds. Palm Beach County is heavily Democratic, a legacy of its history attracting retirees from New York and elsewhere in the Northeast. The party has a 3-to-2 margin over Republicans and Hillary Clinton beat Trump 56 to 41 percent there in 2016.
Pensacola’s Escambia County, near the Alabama border, has a large population of active and retired military members and is heavily Republican. The party holds a 4-to-3 margin over Democrats, and Trump beat Clinton 57 to 37 percent there in 2016.
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