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 last week’s Hurricane Matthew due to higher sea levels. But it was former Vice President Gore — ever 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 intoned.
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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.”
Just two days removed from perhaps the ugliest presidential debate in U.S. history, Clinton took a remarkably conventional and focused approach, delivering a speech on a single topic, Gore’s warnings about close elections notwithstanding. Both veteran politicians, neither known for their theatrics and with a shared tense relationship from Bill Clinton’s time in the White House, seemed eager to geek out on environmental policy.
“It’s actually pretty exciting out there,” Clinton said of the country’s clean-energy boom, saying it has been eclipsed by Trump’s “dark” economic message.
Gore displayed the same sort of awkward campaigning skills he did in 2000.
“I understand you have a pretty good women’s volleyball team here,” he said of Miami Dade College. “Go Lady … Sharks. Is that what you say?”
Still, he stuck with the campaign message, imploring voters to register “today.” The Florida deadline was supposed to be Tuesday, but a federal judge extended it until Wednesday because of the hurricane.
“The stakes in this election simply could not be higher,” Gore said. “You will often hear people from podiums like this one say something like that at election time. I know I’ve heard it — I’ve even said it before.”
Nevertheless, he insisted: “The world is on the cusp of either building on the progress and solving the climate crisis, or stepping back, washing our hands of America’s traditional role as the leader of the world.”
Several hecklers interrupted Clinton, accusing her husband, former President 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 in all matters of climate change — but also on the streets of the Miami neighborhood of Shorecrest. She highlighted Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for retrofitting its building to better withstand hurricanes. Clinton even gave a shout-out to the 3-1-1 information call system.
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.”
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 so much science. We need to start facing it and dealing with it.”
With 28 days until the election, Clinton wasn’t only promoting herself in Miami-Dade County, home to Florida’s second-largest number of Democrats (after Broward County). For the first time, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, who is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, got to speak from the stage before Clinton arrived.
National Democrats who intended to spend big on Murphy have canceled their plans, given Rubio’s consistent lead in polls. But the race could still be close, especially given how Trump has bled Republican support after the release of the lewd tape. Rubio said Tuesday, after several days of silence, that he’s sticking with his Trump endorsement.
Clinton quoted Rubio, having been asked about climate change, as saying, “I’m not a scientist.”
“Why doesn’t he ask the scientists?” she said.
After the rally was over, Clinton met privately with members of the Latin Builders Association, who endorsed a Democrat for the first time in the construction group’s history. Then Clinton’s motorcade took her across the county for an unannounced stop at the Overtown Youth Center.
“Hello, everybody,” Hillary Clinton greeted fidgety students as she walked into a cheerfully painted classroom. She was met with a few gasps.
Clinton pitched her affordable-college plan to high schoolers — most of them too young to vote, but old enough to perhaps tell their parents when they went home that they had seen a presidential candidate in their neighborhood.
Flanking Clinton were former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning and his wife, Tracy. Their foundation funded the youth center, and the Mournings are prominent Democratic political donors.
It was Tracy Mourning — not Clinton — who asked 18-year-olds to sign up to vote.
“Get in the game,” she said.