TALLAHASSE, Fla. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Tuesday argued that spikes in health insurance premiums for Affordable Care Act plans provided an urgent rationale for his election on day that also brought fresh signs of a flagging campaign.
Trump’s finance chairman said that the GOP nominee has no further high-dollar fundraising events planned for the remainder of the campaign, dealing another serious blow to the GOP’s effort to finance its get-out-the-vote operation before Election Day.
Trump also announced that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, will pay a visit Wednesday to Utah, where polls show Trump is at risk of losing the once-reliable GOP state.
Both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton campaigned in Florida on Tuesday, underscoring its importance on Nov. 8, particularly for Trump, who acknowledged that he probably can’t win the White House without carrying the state.
At three events across Florida, Trump claimed that the Affordable Care Act was “blowing up” and vowed he would introduce legislation on his first day in office to replace it.
“Repealing Obamacare and stopping Hillary’s health-care takeover is one of the single most important reasons that we must win on Nov. 8,” Trump declared at a rally here.
He decried the “politicians who rammed this monster down our throats and said: “Hillary Clinton wants to keep it. She wants to spend a fortune on it. . . . She wants to double-down on Obamacare and make it even more expensive and worse.”
Trump spoke about the insurance premiums a day after the Obama administration announced that insurers are raising the 2017 premiums for a popular and significant group of health plans sold through HealthCare.gov by an average of 25 percent.
Trump vowed to replace the program — a key part of President Obama’s domestic legacy — “with something much less expensive, otherwise this country is in much worse shape than anybody thought.” But he provided no specifics on how he would do that.
Trump’s decision to halt high-dollar fundraising was that latest twist in a campaign that has been filled with surprises.
Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s national finance chairman, said in an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday that Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between the party and the campaign, held its last formal fundraiser on Oct. 19. The luncheon was in Las Vegas on the day of the final presidential debate.
“We’ve kind of wound down,” Mnuchin said, referring to formal fundraisers. “But the online fundraising continues to be strong.”
While Clinton is headlining her last fundraiser Tuesday night in Miami, her campaign has scheduled 41 other events between now and Nov. 3 featuring high-profile surrogates such as her daughter, Chelsea, running mate Tim Kaine and the entertainer Cher, according to a schedule sent to donors this weekend.
Trump’s campaign is continuing to bring in donations that will boost the party, but the lack of a formal fundraising schedule effectively turns off one of the main spigots to the Republican National Committee.
Mnuchin said the Trump campaign decided to keep the candidate’s final weeks focused on taking his message to the voters in person rather than on raising money.
During a radio interview Tuesday, Clinton touted the Affordable Care Act as “a major step” forward and vowed, as she has before, to “fix problems” with the law.
“I’m sure you noticed, predominantly working people, African American, Latino people now have access to insurance, but the costs have gone up too much,” Clinton told WHQT-FM in Miami. “So we’re going to really tackle that. We’re going to get copays and premiums and deductibles down. We’re going to tackle prescription drug costs. And we can do that without ripping away the insurance that people now have.”
The sharp increase in premiums, more than triple the percentage hike of this year’s plans, reflects the struggles of many insurers because their Affordable Care Act customers have tended to be sicker than expected. Some companies have responded by dropping out of the insurance exchanges created under the law, leaving consumers with dwindling health-plan options next year in many parts of the country.
On first of a two-day swing through Florida, Clinton told an enthusiastic crowd in Coconut Creek that she is optimistic about the election but warned her supporters about becoming complacent.
“I feel good, but boy, I’m not taking anything for granted,” Clinton said at Broward College’s North Campus.
As she has in recent days in other states, Clinton urged the audience to take advantage of early voting opportunities. She noted that her staff was available to escort people to a nearby location.
“You can go across the street right now,” Clinton said.
Clinton also took several jabs at Trump, including mocking his proposed “deportation force” to remove undocumented immigrants from the country.
Speaking in a state with a sizable Latino population, Clinton called the idea “so unimaginable.”
“I think it is so wrong, and it is not going to happen in America,” she said.
Clinton also picked up the endorsement Tuesday of Colin Powell, a retired four-star general who also served as secretary of state.
In a brief interview, Powell said he had made the announcement during an appearance before the Long Island Association.
“I said that I would be voting for her,” Powell said. Asked why, he said: “Because I think she’s qualified, and the other gentleman is not qualified.”
Powell joins a growing list of Republican national security figures who have endorsed Clinton. While Trump claims a long list of military endorsers, no former secretary of state has publicly backed his bid.
Earlier in the day, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sought to use his South Florida golf course and its morning-shift employees to focus attention on the Affordable Care Act premium increases.
As the first employee at the Trump National Doral Miami resort approached the microphone, Trump said, “He’d better say good [things] or you’re fired — I’m kidding.”
Motioning to his employees, Trump said, “You look at what they’re going through, what they’re going through with their health-care is horrible.”
The Affordable Care Act is designed to provide health-care coverage for people not insured by their employer — so Trump’s statement seemed to suggest that he doesn’t offer health-care insurance. But Trump told Fox News later, “We don’t even use Obamacare. We don’t want it.”
Trump Doral general manager David Feder told reporters that “over 95 percent” of the resort’s employees receive health-care coverage through the company and that “very, very few” of them rely on plans offered through the federal health-care law.
Trump also reminded reporters that he is scheduled to leave the campaign trail on Wednesday to attend the official grand opening of his new Trump-branded hotel on Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue.
“I always said I’m getting to Pennsylvania Avenue one way or another,” he quipped — as employees behind him laughed.
During his afternoon rally in Sanford, Trump declared that “we’re going to win Florida” and opened another line of attack on President Obama.
The GOP nominee claimed that emails allegedly hacked from the Clinton campaign and released by WikiLeaks show that Obama knew about Clinton’s private use of an email server while she was secretary of state.
“President Obama claimed to have no knowledge whatsoever of Clinton’s illegal email server,” Trump said, later adding, “but newly public emails — WikiLeaks — prove otherwise.”
He read email exchanges involving Clinton aides that he said implicate the president.
“That means Obama is now into the act,” Trump said.
The White House declined to comment on Trump’s allegations. Spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters earlier Tuesday that while the president had Clinton’s personal email address, he did not know where her server was located, according to Reuters.
In an interview Tuesday with Reuters, Trump stepped up his criticism of Clinton’s call for the United States to play a more assertive role in ending civil war in Syria.
“What we should do is focus on [the Islamic State terrorist organization]. We should not be focusing on Syria,” Trump told Reuters. “You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton.”
Trump also used the Sanford rally to continue his argument that the media has conspired to rig the election in Clinton’s favor. He called reporters at the event “a bunch of phony lowlifes” and said coverage of the race that suggested Clinton is ahead amounted to “voter suppression, because people give up.”
Pence’s plans to visit Utah show again the increasingly perilous position that Trump faces in assembling the 270 votes needed to prevail in the electoral college.
During an interview scheduled to air Tuesday night with MSNBC’s Brian Williams, Pence said he was headed West anyway and the campaign wants to “leave no stone unturned in this election.”
“The opportunity to stop into Utah and — and — to rally our support in that state is a great opportunity for us,” Pence said.
The Beehive State has voted for a Republican presidential candidate in every election since 1968, but recent polls give Trump only a slight lead or lock him in a three-way tie with Clinton and conservative independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin.
McMullin is a former Republican congressional aide who is a Mormon and went to college in Utah, his base of support. Some projections show he could become the first third-party presidential candidate to win a state since American Independent Party candidate George Wallace won five Southern states in 1968.
The Clinton campaign has no current plans to send the candidate or her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), to Utah, according to campaign aides, who said they are relying for now on regional surrogates.
Polls give Clinton a slim lead in Florida, a state she can afford to lose if she wins other big states on Election Day.
But in a sign of how much Clinton wants to win the state — and cut off Trump’s path to victory — she planned to spend the night in the Miami area, making an exception to her practice of flying home at the end of a long day to sleep at her Chappaqua, N.Y., home. She is scheduled to hold two events on Wednesday in Florida.
Clinton’s campaign also announced Tuesday that rap superstar Jay-Z is scheduled to headline a get-out-the-vote concert in Cleveland on Nov. 4. The campaign did not release details of the concert, which is designed to build interest among black voters and younger voters heading into the final weekend of early voting in Ohio. Obama narrowly won the state in 2012 with the help of a late surge of African American voters in the Cleveland and Columbus areas.
Other well-known singers, including Jennifer Lopez and Jon Bon Jovi, are set to headline similar concerts in other battleground states in the coming days.
Wagner and Gold reported from Washington. Anne Gearan in Coconut Creek, Fla., and Ed O’Keefe, Karen DeYoung and Susan Levine in Washington contributed to this report.