With polls suggesting she’s pulling ahead of Donald Trump in Florida, Hillary Clinton traveled to South Florida on Tuesday and delivered her strongest pitch yet for for U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy while urging voters not to grow overconfident.
“It’s going to be a close election,” she said at Broward College’s Coconut Creek campus. “Don’t get complacent, because we’ve got to turn people out.”
Appearing a little more relaxed and perhaps even a tad sarcastic, Clinton blasted U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for his deflections on climate change, and Donald Trump for not coming out strongly enough in support of Israel. She spoke to a crowd of about 1,750, which delighted the Democratic nominee by singing happy birthday to her, one day before she turns 69.
“Oh, thank you!” she said. “That last debate really was like an early birthday present, right?”
Clinton’s visit to South Florida is part of a campaign strategy to target states where ballots are already being cast in large numbers. So far in Florida, more than 1.6 million have voted by mail and in-person early voting, which started in Broward and Miami-Dade counties Monday.
Broward has about 590,000 registered Democrats — more than any other county in Florida. Slightly more than half of the county’s voters are black, Hispanic or other minorities. Clinton, who reminded voters that they could cast ballots by crossing the street and heading to the county’s North Regional Library, is hoping for a strong turnout in left-leaning South Florida to outnumber votes Trump receives in more conservative parts of the state.
In 2012, Broward had the lowest turnout among large urban counties. So Clinton and an undercard that included U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Rep. Murphy repeatedly reminded voters that the race is not over.
Clinton leads Trump in Florida by 3.3 points, according to a Real Clear Politics average of the polls. In the Senate race, an average of polls showed that Rubio leads Murphy by 3.4 percent.
As she has done recently in Charlotte and Philadelphia, Clinton stumped down-ballot, focusing the opening of her speech on Murphy’s race against Rubio. Like President Barack Obama during his recent visit to Miami Gardens, she played up Rubio’s passive support of Trump. And she mocked him for deflecting questions on climate change.
“You deserve also a senator who actually believes climate change is real as opposed to someone who every time he is asked says ‘Well, I am not a scientist,’ ” she said, drawing boos from the crowd. “I always wonder, why don’t you talk to a scientist? Start here at Broward College.”
Clinton also questioned why Florida, which is considering a utility-backed solar amendment as part of this election, isn’t among the nation’s leaders in solar energy. She alluded to the recent King Tide, which flooded typically dry parts of South Florida on sunny days, and vowed to install a half-billion solar panels nationwide by the end of her first term.
“You have a governor and Legislature that like your current senator doesn’t want to believe the science of climate change,” she said.
Clinton’s support for Murphy may be helpful for the underdog candidate. Some of the younger rally-goers who stood in line to wait for the event to begin acknowledged that they don’t know the name of the Democrat running for Senate. Edward Leuchs and Verna Johnson, Clinton volunteers, said they run into plenty of voters in Fort Lauderdale’s Sistrunk neighborhood who only know they aren’t happy with Rubio.
“They don’t like Rubio,” said Leuchs, 67. “But they don’t know who Patrick is.”
Clinton supporters began lining up just after 7 a.m. Tuesday to wait for her speech. Many were brimming with confidence, but worried about not just beating Trump, but winning by a wide enough margin to douse any claims that the election was “rigged.”
Beverly Blanchette and Erin Haag, volunteers who call voters and knock on doors out of Clinton’s Lake Worth office, said they’ve been reminding voters that United Kingdom polls showed the Brexit referendum was guaranteed to fail this summer before it passed and chaos ensued.
“People didn’t go out and vote because they were 100 percent sure of the outcome and then in the end they were completely shocked with how it turned out,” said Haag, 34. “So we’re using that as an example.”
Clinton, whose campaign has blitzed Florida this week, is scheduled to speak Wednesday in Lake Worth and Tampa before heading to North Carolina on Thursday. President Barack Obama returns to the state Friday for an Orlando rally, and pop singer Jennifer Lopez will headline a concert for Clinton on Saturday in downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park.
Trump was also in Florida on Tuesday, meeting with Bay of Pigs veterans in Miami before heading to Sanford and Tallahassee.
“This is bigger than me. It’s bigger than any of us,” Clinton told the crowd, before sardonically adding: “It’s even bigger than Donald Trump.”