PUEBLO – Republican Donald Trump spoke Monday in Colorado following a disappointing weekend for the campaign that included a report of major business losses.
Trump spoke in Pueblo in the afternoon ahead of expected evening remarks in Loveland, focusing on the critical battleground state of Colorado.
Some polls have the race tightening in Colorado, but a poll by Keating Research on Monday gave Democrat Hillary Clinton an 11-point lead over Trump following the first presidential debate.
He fought back against a seemingly damning Keating Research report, which found that Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, which could have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal incomes taxes for up to 18 years. As far as an “October surprise” goes, the report likely won’t have a devastating impact on the campaign, despite his opponents claiming it offers evidence that Trump is not the successful businessman that he makes himself out to be.
To the contrary, Trump said Monday, “I have brilliantly used those laws.
“I have a fiduciary responsibility to pay no more taxes than is legally required, like anybody else,” Trump said to a room full of cheering supporters in the Pueblo Convention Center.
His fans wore red “Make America Great Again” hats, and T-shirts that read, “Proud member of the basket of deplorables,” a reference to a dig made against Trump supporters by Clinton, who suggested that many are racist and sexist. Clinton later said she regreted making the sweeping statement.
Elizabeth Nelson, a Trump supporter from Pueblo who attended the event, said news of his taxes only proves that Trump has the business smarts to lead the country, as he was able to use the system to his advantage.
“How can you pay income tax on something you’ve lost?” Nelson asked. “I’ve lost in my business. You can’t pay something you don’t have.”
“Why not take advantage of it if the laws are like that?” added Carol Trautt, of Colorado City, who also attended the Pueblo rally in support of Trump.
Trump blamed the losses that year on a crumbling real estate market, which he compared to great depressions and recessions.
“Many business people, including many of my competitors, and some of my friends, were not able to survive. Companies, jobs and opportunities were lost and lives were destroyed, as tens of thousands of people were put out of work,” Trump said.
He highlighted how he never went bankrupt and asked his fans, “Are you proud of me?” They hollered back in approval.
Trump also used the opportunity to point to a “broken tax code,” which he said only lawyers and accountants can navigate.
“The unfairness of the tax laws is unbelievable, it’s something I’ve been talking about for a long time, despite being a big beneficiary of the laws. But I’m working for you now,” Trump said.
Across the street from the convention center, where hundreds of Trump supporters lined up to enter, a growing group of protesters held signs in support of Clinton. The signs read, “Dump racist Trump” and “Without immigrants, Trump would have no wives.”
“He is hiding something, and he’s never going to release it because there’s a lot more to his tax returns than he’s actually saying,” said Richard Lucero, of Pueblo.
Clinton has not stopped in Colorado since an early August appearance in Adams County. Her campaign has instead relied on surrogates to stump for her in Colorado, including running mate Tim Kaine. The campaign announced a concert set for next Monday in Denver with Dave Matthews.
The Clinton campaign responded to Trump’s claims of having business sense and being dedicated to American workers by pointing to a Newsweek article that stated that Trump uses Chinese steel and aluminum in some of his construction projects.
Pueblo, sometimes referred to as “Steel City,” is one of the largest steel-producing cities in the country.
Local Pueblo elected officials and community leaders supporting Clinton held a news conference across the street from the Trump event to “denounce Trump’s divisive campaign and hateful rhetoric” and call attention to The New York Times report.
But Trump quickly turned the conversation back on Clinton.
“I made my money as a very successful private business person, following the law all the way,” he said. “Hillary Clinton made her money as a corrupt public official.”