TAMPA — A grown man in cargo shorts jumps up and down in a dark parking lot on a Tuesday night. He’s trying to glance inside the window of an RV that’s not his as a pair of wire-rimmed glasses quiver on his nose.
What is he looking for? “I don’t know,” the man says with a guilty chuckle. He has just come out of a Trump office opening in downtown Tampa. “T-shirts,” the woman next to him shrieks.
They aren’t the only ones whose demeanor turns hysterical upon seeing Trump’s massive face plastered on the side of this 32-foot RV. Not at all.
“Come on, be sexy,” Sherry Goucher’s friend says as she takes a photo of the 69-year-old posing in front of the RV. Tonight, the vehicle is decorated with a string of dangling lights.
There are, on a mission to register voters and drum up Trump enthusiasm. This one is driven by Mitch Tyner, a lawyer from Mississippi and the keeper of those Trump t-shirts that caused the man to jump like a child looking for candy.
Tyner also set up those dangling lights. As Goucher poses, tipping her chin like a model at the end of a runway, he looks on with a smile. Tyner has taken thousands of photos of Floridians in front of Trump’s smirking face. Earlier this evening he yelled “” as he snapped a group photo and the crowd shrieked with glee.
“They are so excited to see the reality of Mr. Trump as the candidate. The RV is exemplary of the candidate that they support. And it is just so real to them at that moment,” explains Tyner, who is 53. “Many of the women have kissed him on the lips on the side of the RV. Everyone loves to have their picture made next to the RV.”
“RV life, living the dream,” Tyner jokes as he walks to the back of the vehicle where his single leather suitcase sits on a bed. Pinned on the walls: a TRUMP koozie, a graphic t-shirt depicting Clinton falling off a Trump-driven motorcycle, and other Trump paraphernalia he has been given.
Tyner also has a handgun on board, which he keeps close to the steering wheel. He says his friend gave it to him for safety reasons.
Yet there are few other signs of Tyner’s personal life on board. A handful of shirts hang in the closet and his mini-fridge stocked with water, juice, a Publix salad for lunch, and a few Michelob Ultras. He brings cold water to volunteers waving Trump signs in the 90-degree heat.
“I’ve given up a lot to be here. Financially. And my family, which is the most important thing in my life. I miss them so much,” Tyner, a father of three, says softly. Even though he doesn’t like the line “you’re fired,” Tyner feels that this is his calling. When the campaign called him on a Sunday and wanted him working full-time in Florida the following day, he immediately said yes.
Tyner has perfectly-quaffed hair and dresses neatly: pressed shirts and tight-fitting shorts. He brings southern hospitality and an emphasis on family values to his sales pitch.
“Trump sat right here,” Tyner says.
“Really?” says a Florida woman.
“Yes, Ma’am,” Tyner says.
He is describing the launch of the RV, when the candidate joined Tyner on board in Tampa. He gave Trump a staff pin to bring back to Tyner’s son in Mississippi, where Trump was heading next, and sure enough his son got that pin.
Tyner tells this story to Trump supporters when they ask if Trump has ever been on board because it shows them that the candidate is a family-oriented person.
But duty number one? Tyner says it is registering voters. Yet life on the road proves otherwise. Tyner may have registered more than 50 people at a Bikers for Trump event last week, yet after a month on the road he says he has registered 100 to 200 people in total. On a regular day, registering 5 or 10 people is a win.
Ultimately, the RV is all about motivating people. Look at a recent Wednesday: Tyner, who has high blood pressure, sipped a cup of beet juice over ice in the parking lot of a Sam’s Club in St. Petersburg. The campaign had assigned him two stops that day, and he was mapping out his route. After about 15 minutes, two men came up and knocked on the RV door. Al Ryan was one of them.
Ryan was headed to Costco, but he pulled a U-turn when he saw the RV because he wanted a bumper sticker. He got one. The other man, after he finished loading a case of waters into his car from Sam’s, also asked for a bumper sticker.
Tyner did not register either of them, or ask if they are registered. But they were both content to walk away with bumper stickers.
Thirty-seven miles later, the RV attended a Trump event organized by local Republicans. A similar situation occurs: no one was registered to vote but the energy was high and reached a boiling point when the RV came along. Tyner parked in the lot of Bogey’s Sports Pub & Restaurant. Some people yelled profanities or chanted Clinton as they drove by, but many 18-wheelers and everyday Floridians honked as they passed. Some even pulled over.
Charles Easterly, a 53-year-old construction worker, saw the signs and the RV and used a few precious minutes of his lunch break to pull into the lot with his co-workers.
Tyner did not ask to register the trio, but Charles and his fellow construction workers told CBS News that they are already registered.
“I’m registered as a Republican. I used to be a Democrat until that n*gger got in there,” Easterly said, laughing.
“We work a lot and don’t have time to go looking,” Easterly added as he gazed at the Trump RV longingly. He had a cigarette dripping ash from one hand and fresh bumper stickers fastened inside the other. As he hopped back into his white pickup truck, he joked that maybe they would jam Trump yard signs into the front lawns of their upcoming jobs.
After an hour, Tyner and the RV hit the next stop. “This one could be fun. It is sort of a protest,” Tyner said with a smile.
Over 200 Trump-sters had swallowed up the sidewalk outside of Barnacle Bill’s Seafood in Sarasota. They were there to support a local restaurant owner who had put a pro-Trump message on his marquee sign: “NRA Member Concealed Carrier OK, Not Deplorable Vote Trump.”
Local Democrats had planned to show up and protest the sign, but the Trump supporters out-protested them.
“There’s my leader right there! That’s our leader!” supporters screamed as the RV came towards them. Tyner was at it again, talking to supporters and giving out bumper stickers in the 85-degree heat. He said the environment is too raucous to register voters, but he did watch human inhibitions dissolve and tears flow.
“These are good tears, supportive tears,” said Deanna Lamoureaus. “Someone who is so enthusiastic in their support for Mr. Trump that they would do this. Yes it is a campaign vehicle, but still. It is out here. We stood out to support Mr. Trump. The vehicle came to encourage us. That means a great deal to me.”
A couple walked up and thanked Tyner. The wife took a photo of the husband in front of the RV. They walked away. Thirty seconds later they were back – this time the husband took a photo of the wife.
“Thanks, sweetie,” she said as they looked at the iPhone image together.
Not everyone is so smitten. Hitler mustaches have been drawn on Trump’s face and sodas have been hurled at the dashboard.
“I get a lot of birds on the road,” explained Tyner. By “bird” he meant the middle finger. “There are people that act very ugly. Most of it is positive but I get all kinds of sign language.”
There is also heartache that Tyner wouldn’t see.
“It is too much. It is not doing any good for anybody except touting his name. I can’t even talk about it,” Laura Dienes, a retired 62-year-old on Social Security, said with tears swelling. “It is a pompous show of his ego. And I don’t agree with it. He is going to put the country back in the dumpster.”
Dienes, who will, shook her head as she watched the RV pull of Barnacle Bill’s parking lot.
Meanwhile, Tyner and the RV are back on the road, listening to Sirius Radio. Ironically, Tyner hates driving, but until Election Day he will continue to barrel up and down the I-4 corridor in this RV.
“This is just temporary,” he said. “But I will be here another two months and I am sure to be sure we win Florida.”