Carlo Maiorano returned to his alma mater Thursday night to do something he’s never done before — stand outside the Republican presidential debate at the University of Miami and stump for his guy.
He and his daughter Alanna, 10, donned custom-made black T-shirts that said “Hey Obama” on the front and “You’re fired!” on the back. Below the exclamation mark was a white silhouette of Donald Trump, the real estate magnate and Republican front-runner.
The elder Maiorano, an anesthesiologist who drove down from Fort Lauderdale and comes from a family of Italian immigrants, said Trump is the only candidate that makes him feel safe and supports American businesses. He acknowledged the Donald can be “brash.”
“Is he right all the time? Not necessarily,” he said. “He’s got to be a team player when he gets to where he’s going.”
It remains to be seen where any of the remaining Republican presidential candidates are going with days left before Florida’s Tuesday primary. On Thursday night, several dozen hoisted handmade signs and threw their campaign shirts on to wave at cars rolling down Ponce de Leon Boulevard just outside the BankUnited Center, where the four Republican presidential candidates were set to spar for the last time before votes are counted Tuesday.
For Pablo Rodriguez, a vendor for Goya Foods and volunteer for Marco Rubio’s campaign, the decision is simple. He identifies with Rubio’s background as the son of a maid and bartender, and he thinks the junior senator from Florida has the best chance of winning the White House.
“He’s the only one who can beat Hillary Clinton,” he said.
And being Miami, the swagger strutted. Mark and Ydania Dienstag sported a stylish cherry red 1965 Thunderbird, bedazzled with red, white and blue twinkling lights. They said they hope their wheels drive in votes for their favorite candidate.
"Ted Cruz is the adult in the room," said Mark Dienstag, 67. "He is head and shoulders above everybody else. He has the courage of his convictions."
Not all came out to boast about their candidates. More than 500 protestors demanding a higher minimum wage demonstrated outside the center.
Laura Pierre, 19, called on the politicians to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She and her fellow critics made their way across the University of Miami campus and eventually caused police to close Ponce de Leon Boulevard.
"I work two jobs, one at Chipotle and one at Burger Fi, all so that I can save up and go to school,” Pierre said. “We want them to give us the right to make a decent living, to form unions. There are 4 million people living in poverty in Florida. Will I be one of them?"
Other critics hoped GOP hopefuls will start to take climate change seriously as they debate in South Florida, which has become ground zero for the the conversation about effects of sea-level rise.
John Van Leer, a professor at the University of Miami, said it's vital politicians discuss these issues on a deeper level.
“They live on the earth too,” he said. "I'm working for my grandson, and he didn't have anything to do with all of this mess. He didn't burn carbon; he didn't increase global temperature. He's just a cute little guy and he should have the right to live on a reasonable earth."