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 last 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 two hours before the dinner to accept the organization’s Statesman of the Year distinction. 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 rivals’ 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 Sarasota GOP Chairman Joe Gruters. Previously, vandals defaced a Sarasota GOP billboard in Venice.
Trump conducted the audience between fits of outrage and glee at one of his first stops while campaigning for Romney, for which he and his businesses have contributed the greatest amount legally allowed. Gruters said the audience response 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 that background 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?”