Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump attack each other in separate campaign swings around the state.
COMPILED FROM WIRE REPORTS
MIAMI – Hillary Clinton brought Al Gore to Miami on Tuesday to underscore her message that she will fight climate change – unlike Donald Trump, who has said he’s “not a big believer.”
“We cannot risk putting a climate denier in the White House,” she declared.
Clinton mentioned increased damage from Hurricane Matthew due to higher sea levels. But it was former Vice President Gore, the academic climate change science evangelist, who scored the Miami disaster trifecta. He tied global warming to Matthew – “from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in just 36 hours, that’s extremely unusual” – and to the faster spread of the Zika virus.
“Mother Nature is giving us a very clear and powerful message,” he said.
‘Every vote counts’
What seemed to amuse the crowd most at Miami-Dade College’s Kendall Campus, however, was Gore’s painful recollection of the 2000 presidential election in Florida.
“Your vote really, really, really counts,” the former nominee said. “You can consider me as an Exhibit A for that.” Some in the audience of 1,600 – the older ones, Gore joked – groaned. He lost the state, and the race, by just 537 votes.
“You won! You won!” people chanted.
Said Gore: “I don’t want you to be in a position years from now where you welcome Hillary Clinton and say, ‘Actually, you did win.’”
By the end of the rally, the supporters in attendance had heard him repeat himself so frequently that they recited in unison: “Every vote counts.”
Bill Clinton ridiculed
Several hecklers interrupted Clinton, accusing her husband, former President Bill Clinton, of being a “rapist.” They were escorted out of the arena. One wore a Trump T-shirt. Another carried a printout of Bill Clinton’s face with the word “RAPE.”
“My friends, please,” Hillary Clinton said calmly, continuing as the crowd drowned out the demonstrators, “let’s focus about what’s really important in this election.”
Unlike previous campaign rallies, Clinton’s event felt especially infused with Miami references. She mentioned high-tide flooding on the streets of Miami Beach – which is inevitably invoked on all matters climate change – but also on the streets of Miami’s Shorecrest neighborhood. Gore also name-dropped Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach.
With Sanders fans
The college venue drew fans of Clinton’s primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who made climate change a central plank of his campaign platform.
University of Miami student Rachel Siegel said she backed Sanders in March, but now “it is my duty as a Democrat to support Hillary.”
“It baffles me there are still women who support this man after he said those words,” she said, referring to a tape released Friday showing Trump making vulgar comments about grabbing women sexually. “I can’t mentally comprehend that.”
“I’m kind of nervous – I don’t want Donald Trump in office,” said Viviara Wallace, a 19-year-old Miami Dade College student. “He is a liar. He is not a very solid man. He is very emotional. I don’t trust anybody who gets mad on Twitter and goes on a Twitter rampage.”
One Gore fan
At least one person attended because of Gore: Marian Azeem-Angel, a no-party-affiliated 18-year-old Miami Dade College student studying environmental science.
“He is the one I’m most excited about,” she said. When Azeem-Angel heard Gore was coming, she confessed, “I got heart palpitations.”
“Environmental topics a lot of people feel are out of reach, but he can help educate people – you don’t need to be extremely knowledgeable on the subject to get involved,” she said.
Trump, she said, is “someone who says global warming is a hoax, that it’s not happening, is just in denial. There is no much science. We need to start facing it and dealing with it.”
Trump in Panhandle
With less than a month to go before Florida could decide the fate of his campaign, Trump began a swing through the state Tuesday with a nearly apocalyptic warning of the stakes of the November election.
Speaking to thousands of cheering supporters at Aaron Bessant Park in Panama City Beach, Trump painted Hillary Clinton as a pawn of a global establishment who would usher in the destruction of the nation. He also opined on a variety of issues in Florida, including whether the management of Lake Okeechobee has caused droughts in the state.
“This election will determine whether we remain a free country in the truest sense of the word or we become a corrupt banana republic controlled by large donors and foreign governments,” Trump told the crowd. “The election of Hillary Clinton would lead to the destruction of our country.”
Trump later described Clinton as “the vessel (of) a corrupt global establishment that’s raiding our country and surrendering the sovereignty of our nation.”
Trump grounded his argument in the release of hacked emails from Clinton campaign officials. The documents were released by the WikiLeaks organization, but the U.S. intelligence community has suggested that previous documents released by that organization aimed at damaging Clinton were first illegally obtained by Russian agents.
Critics say the emails, which include transcripts of private speeches Clinton gave after leaving her position as secretary of state, show that Clinton is disingenuous and gave special treatment to contributors to her family foundation.
Trump’s campaign announced a total attendance at the rally Tuesday night at 20,000 – including 10,000 inside the park and another 10,000 outside. It wasn’t possible to verify those estimates.
The real-estate businessman, who is a part-time Florida resident, also touched on issues closer to the Sunshine State. Trump appeared to claim – perhaps jokingly – that the mismanagement of water releases from Lake Okeechobee caused chronic dry conditions in parts of the state.
“They’re always letting the water out,” Trump said. “Do you ever notice, we always have droughts.
They’re always letting the water out. I said, keep it in. We won’t have so many droughts. We won’t have any droughts.”
Releases from Lake Okeechobee have long been controversial, but not because of suggestions that they cause droughts. Instead, the water is blamed for fouling coastal estuaries.
Trump also repeated his endorsement of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s re-election effort.
Rubio and Trump were once locked in a bitter battle for the presidential nomination, but Rubio has since endorsed the nominee and stood by Trump even after a tape from 2005 revealed the businessman and television personality making vulgar remarks about women. Rubio has said the remarks were offensive.
And Trump touted his multiple developments in the state.
“We’ve created a lot of jobs,” Trump said, playfully adding: “So … if you guys don’t vote for me as a victor, I’m going to be very angry at you.”
Trump’s three-day swing through Florida – which is also set to feature appearances in Ocala, Lakeland and West Palm Beach – comes as polls show Trump slipping behind Clinton in the state.
It is highly unlikely that Trump can win the White House without Florida’s 29 electoral votes.
The Panama City area is part of a Northwest Florida stronghold for Republican candidates in statewide races, something that state Rep. Matt Gaetz, running for a seat in Congress, referenced while talking to the crowd about former Gore’s visit to South Florida with Clinton earlier Tuesday.
“In 2000, we made sure Al Gore was never going to be the president of the United States,” Gaetz said.
Patricia Mazzei and Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald / TNS and Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.