Hillary Clinton celebrated her 69th birthday by giving a speech in downtown Tampa on Wednesday afternoon, just as the polls are getting tighter between herself and Donald Trump.
Trump must win Florida to have any shot at getting the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidency, but Clinton is also pushing hard to win in Florida, with three official campaign stops in the Sunshine State over the past two days.
“Now, Donald Trump says he can still win, and he’s right, that’s why it’s important that everyone gets out and votes,” Clinton told the crowd of a couple of thousand people who had waited hours under a warm sun to see her in Curtis Hixon Park.
Trump fans were energized with the release of a new Bloomberg Politics poll on Wednesday, which shows the Republican nominee up by two percentage points over Clinton, the first poll of Florida in a long time showing him in the lead.
The thought of a Trump presidency terrified some in the audience.
“The alternative would be quite scary, and it absolutely blows my mind that he would have that much support and that it could even be close,” said Lutz resident Susan Glickman.
Glickman’s husband, David, called the Trump candidacy a legacy of former talk-show host Jerry Springer, who he said made it acceptable for people to be angry to show how they want to solve things.
“Trump has capitalized on that anger for the sake of anger,” he said. “I think there are a lot of issues that are legitimate, but the way that he has brought it forth is anger without any substance behind it.”
Clinton took turns in her 23-minute speech laying out a positive vision if she were elected president, while also bashing Trump on a variety of topics.
“Let me tell you, if I ever need a pickup, I’m coming back to Tampa,” she said, after a group of fans began chanting “Hillary, Hillary” about five minutes into her speech.
Job one of her address was to remind voters that early voting has begun and that they need to get to the polls.
In addition to mentioning politicians who were in the crowd such as Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Senator Bill Nelson, she made sure to name-check other Democrats down the ballot, such as CD 13 candidate Charlie Crist, and local House candidates David Singer and Rena Frazier. She also gave some love to U.S. Senate hopeful Patrick Murphy, as he attempts to close the gap against Marco Rubio.
“He’s an independent voice and a problem solver,” she said of Murphy, mentioning his support for Planned Parenthood and comprehensive immigration reform, while adding, “he’s even brought Democrats and Republicans together to try to protect our environment and fund Everglades restoration.”
Clinton repeated much of her basic stump speech, joking that there should be no questions about her stamina after surviving four-and-a-half hours of debating Trump over the past month.
“We have seen Donald Trump insult nearly every person in America,” she said exaggerating greatly. “I just find that so intolerable, because look at Tampa, it’s a cosmopolitan city. Florida is paving the way for what our country will look like it, and we need to be lifting each other, listening to each other, respecting each other, not sowing seeds of hatred and bigotry.”
Although some of Clinton’s proposed policies, such as making colleges and public universities tuition free (for those whose parents make less than $125,000 annually) are progressive, she talked often of bringing Republicans and independents into her big tent vision for the future, and invoked GOP patron saint Ronald Reagan when going on a riff about how Trump has been “bashing” America for decades.
“Back in 1987, he took out a $100,000 ad in the New York Times criticizing President Reagan! He said our leaders were the laughingstock of the world,” she exclaimed with indignation. “So this is a guy who criticizes everybody but himself!”
There was a good proportion of females in the audience. 19-year-old University of Tampa student Eugenia Davies said that while some of her friends supported Hillary, some others are backing Trump. “They like him because of his views on immigration,” she said.”I agree with that, we do have a problem in the country with that, but his solutions are not the real solutions. I believe Hillary will take care of that. You’re going to have your issues, but how you deal with that is what matters.”
“Trump had a chance, but he dug his own grave,” said Tampa resident Marina Kauffman, who added that if Clinton were a man, “this would be a slam dunk.”
Star power was provided in the manner of actress Angela Bassett giving an enthusiast speech leading up to Clinton’s appearance. “Now here me Tampa Bay, and hear me well: This election is just a little too close to be comfortable, to sit back on the sidelines,” she warned.
This was Clinton’s forth appearance in Tampa during this election cycle (previous visits were at the Florida State Fairgrounds, USF, and Ybor City), and her fifth in the Tampa Bay area (she also appeared at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg).
With 13 days left before the election, it’s uncertain whether she will appear again, but very well could in this extremely fluid final countdown to Election Day.