Donald Trump braved the winds of Tropical Storm Isaac and a wave of more than 300 people, who paid to have their picture taken with him, to deliver a 30-minute speech Sunday night for a Republican Party of Sarasota fundraiser.
“He isn’t used to waiting around for anybody,” said Sarasota GOP Chairman Joe Gruters.
Trump arrived at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, two hours before the dinner during which he accepted the organization’s Statesman of the Year distinction. During his speech, he announced his plan to serve as Gov. Mitt Romney’s surrogate in the run-up to the 2012 election and told Republicans it’s time to stoop to their rival’s campaign tactics, in an early demonstration of what to expect from the reality television star until November.
More than 1,000 people attended the event, which brought in about $200,000. The dinner generated enough donation pledges to build six billboards, said Gruters. Previously, vandals defaced a Sarasota GOP billboard in Venice.
Gruters said the audience’s response to Trump’s award was indicative of why the Sarasota GOP gave him the award.
“It was probably one of the largest dinners in Sarasota’s history,” Gruters said. “The guy’s reputation fits him.”
Trump told the audience that a president should be a businessman and a winner. “I’ve built up a net worth of $8 billion,” Trump said. “Eight-billion dollars — not bad.”
Trump added people with a background of financial wealth are vulnerable to political attacks.
“I see so many successful people wanting to run (for office), but during the course of their success, they’ve beaten the hell out of people — they’ve won,” Trump said. “And honestly they’ve left people in their wake and they’ve made enemies.”
He wasn’t specific about how Republicans should alter their campaign strategy, but said they need to “fight fire with fire.”
“John McCain, who I also like, wanted to be very nice,” Trump said about the 2008 election. “But, honestly, can you be nice?”
Blogger smears Sarasota GOP
Republican Party of Sarasota Chairman Joe Gruters has received some “pretty disturbing” voicemail messages this week, after a blogger for the Village Voice posted his cell-phone number online.
James King, who blogs for the New York City weekly newspaper, most recently called Gov. Mitt Romney’s sons “terrifying” because they don’t drink alcohol or smoke and berated Gruters for awarding Donald Trump Statesman of the Year Sunday, Aug. 26. King targeted the Sarasota GOP when Trump called Arianna Huffington “ugly” on Twitter, just a day after receiving the award. Gruters had taped Trump saying, “Joe is a great guy,” and saved it as his voicemail message. The move prompted King to include the number with his post.
“We stand by the award,” Gruters said in an Aug. 29 phone interview. The distinction was based on a lifetime of achievements, and the Sarasota GOP is thrilled to have honored Trump, he said.
A flurry of phone calls has left Gruters hesitant to return missed calls, but he said he will leave the voicemail message up for the next week or so. Most of the callers hang up when he answers.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Gruters said. “If people have that much free time, go ahead and call it up.”