Hillary Clinton celebrates Florida primary win in West Palm Beach

Hillary Clinton speaks at Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach , Florida on March 15, 2016.
Hillary Clinton speaks at Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach , Florida on March 15, 2016. The Palm Beach Post

Hillary Clinton easily crushed Bernie Sanders to win the Florida Democratic primary and took aim at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.

An excited Clinton made her way on stage to raucous applause and cheers from the audience in West Palm Beach — just a few miles away from where Trump was holding his own Florida victory party. She called for a president that will “defend our country and not embarrass it.”

And then she launched into her attack on Trump:

“When we hear a candidate for president call for rounding up 12 million immigrants, banning all Muslims from entering the United States, when he embraces torture, that doesn’t make him strong, it makes him wrong,” she told the crowd.

Clinton repeated familiar calls for more affordable child care, equal pay and standing up for the middle class. And she called for voters to play their role by volunteering and donating money, and said all voters must do their part to “take on inequality and discrimination.”

One specific part of her speech mentioned South Florida — Clinton said that she met a mother of five children in Miami whose father had been deported.

“She dreams of a day when deportations end and families are reunited,” she said.

South Florida voters who said they chose Clinton praised her long career in public service, including her years as secretary of state.

“I have been a fan since she helped Bill run when he was first elected,” said Margot Collins, a retired teacher from Palm Beach Gardens. “She is like the mother of the Democratic Party. She takes care of everybody.”

Some voters said they liked Sanders’ ideas but didn’t believe he could accomplish them.

“Hillary is more driven to have legitimate plans as opposed to saying things that get a rise out of a crowd,” said Starr Courakos, an 18-year-old student in West Palm Beach.

Clinton’s Florida victory was no surprise: Polls had repeatedly showed her massive lead over Sanders. And Clinton’s campaign invested more time in Florida — and far earlier than Sanders.

Sanders gave a speech to the National Urban League in Fort Lauderdale in July and then didn’t return to Florida until just before the Democratic debate at Miami Dade College. Sanders held a rally in Miami on March 8, but by then many Democrats had already voted early or had made up their minds.

Clinton spoke at Broward College in October, and more recently dispatched her husband, former President Bill Clinton, to give public speeches, including one in Miami Gardens, a predominantly black city where he talked about the tragedies of young black children who have lost their lives to gun violence. Courting black voters was key to Clinton’s success in many states.

Clinton had a longer relationship with average Florida voters and much closer ties to donors here. She won the state in the 2008 primary before losing to Barack Obama. For her 2016 campaign, Clinton held multiple fundraisers in South Florida.

Palm Beach County has the third highest number of registered Democratic voters behind Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Combined, the three South Florida counties comprise about one-third of Democratic voters in Florida which means that Clinton will court the region if she is the party’s nominee.

Miami Herald staff writer Lance Dixon contributed to this article.

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