With the private-email scandal hurting Hillary Clinton — and Democratic rival Bernie Sanders rising in the polls — the Democratic presidential candidate has expanded her public appearances the past couple of months and will bring her first organizing meeting in Florida to Broward County on Friday afternoon.
She will hold the meeting at Broward College in Davie to pitch herself to Democratic voters. Florida, a swing state with 29 electoral votes, will be a crucial state for Clinton if she is the party’s nominee.
Clinton is choosing the most left-leaning county for one of her first public appearances in Florida. When she appeared at the National Urban League in Fort Lauderdale and at Florida International University on July 31, those events were targeted to a specific topic — for example, her opposition to the Cuba embargo at FIU — and to a segment of voters, including African Americans.
This time she isn’t coming to speak on a particular topic or to a subset of Democratic voters — she is pitching herself to the left more broadly in an attempt to get people excited about her campaign.
Cynthia Busch, chairwoman of the Broward Democrats, said that Clinton, or any Democrat running for president, needs to let volunteers get to know the candidate in person, and she needs to do it now and not wait for Florida’s March 15 primary.
“In order to get Democrats out to vote in these big urban counties where it really is hard to reach people, you have to have a very focused and totally engaged volunteer effort,” she said. “We saw that with Obama. He did it twice — they were here for two straight years organizing. You need to start early in Broward. . . . Regardless of what is going to happen in the primary, you have to plan for the general now.”
Clinton has targeted these organizing meetings in states that vote after the early-voting states. Since August, she has held similar meetings in Wisconsin, Colorado, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Maine.
While in Broward, Clinton is likely to zero in on themes of high interest to South Florida Democrats, such as immigration and voting rights. She is likely to slip in a few jabs at some of the GOP presidential candidates who live in Florida, including Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio of Miami, Ben Carson, who retired to West Palm Beach, and Donald Trump, who also has a home in Palm Beach County.
You lock up your base first and then go talk to people that are persuadable. She is smart to spend time in a place where she has the strongest relationships initially.
Steve Schale, informal advisor to the effort to draft Joe Biden to challenge Hillary Clinton
Clinton has previously attacked Bush for the “deeply flawed purge” of voters when he was governor in 2000 and a similar effort in 2004, which was ultimately scrapped. She has also stated that Bush and Trump hold the same views on immigration despite key differences between their plans — a claim PolitiFact rated Mostly False.
Her South Florida trip comes about two weeks before she will face Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, and other Democratic contenders in the first primary debate Oct. 13 in Nevada.
A Real Clear Politics nationwide average of the polls of the Democratic candidates for Sept. 17-24 showed that Clinton leads with 40.8 percent, compared to 27.6 percent for Sanders and 20 percent for Vice President Joe Biden, who is mulling a bid. A Real Clear Politics average for Florida alone during part of August and September showed her with an even wider margin over Sanders.
Clinton’s numbers dropped this summer as she faced months of criticism over the use of her private email server while U.S. secretary of state. She waited to apologize until September.
Meanwhile, Sanders’ messages about income inequality have drawn large crowds and a growing interest in his campaign. Sanders’ spokespersons did not respond to emails from the Miami Herald asking whether he has any upcoming events in Florida.
Unlike some of the GOP presidential candidates who have given media interviews and held public events for months, Clinton was sluggish to give interviews to national media outlets, giving her first major one to CNN in July. But as she has faced criticism about the email scandal she has increased her visibility in recent weeks and has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Face the Nation and Meet the Press.
555,000 Number of registered Democrats in Broward County, the highest in Florida
While in South Florida, Clinton will attend fundraisers at the homes of lawyer Fred Cunningham in North Palm Beach, lawyer Mitchell Berger in Fort Lauderdale and Abigail and F.J. Pollak in Miami Beach.
The New York Times reported Thursday that a Davie assistant police chief told the Secret Service in a meeting that the town would not provide security. However, a Secret Service special agent in charge in Miami, William Cachinero, told the Miami Herald that Davie will provide some security — just not the number of personnel that the Secret Service had asked the town to provide. The Broward Sheriff’s Office, Broward College and Florida Atlantic University will also provide security, and Clinton already gets Secret Service protection due to her position as a former first lady.
Clinton has chosen Broward for her organizational meeting in part because it is the county with the highest number of Democratic voters in Florida. About half of Broward’s voters are registered Democrats — or about 555,000 — compared to about 549,000 in Miami-Dade.
“You lock up your base first and then go talk to people that are persuadable,” said Steve Schale, an informal advisor to the effort to draft Joe Biden to challenge Clinton. “She is smart to spend time in a place where she has the strongest relationships initially.”
In 2012, Broward voters delivered about 508,000 votes to Obama, or about 12 percent of his Florida share. Obama won Florida by slightly less than 1 percentage point.
But Broward isn’t a sure bet to help a candidate win statewide due to turnout. In 2012, the county’s turnout was about 67 percent — only a handful of counties ranked lower.
Clinton has largely focused her staff and money on the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Ana Cruz, a Democratic strategist in Tampa who worked on Clinton’s 2008 campaign, said she expects the campaign to add staff in states including Florida early next year.
But Clinton loyalists in Florida have been regularly meeting to strategize, said Ira Leesfield, a Miami attorney who held a fundraiser for Clinton and has been involved in past campaigns for Hillary and husband Bill Clinton.
“I think this has always been her game plan — to find out what is on people’s minds and do some fundraising and now to do public events,” Leesfield said.
Miami Herald political writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this article.