Hillary Clinton campaigned in Florida this week for the fourth time since launching her presidential campaign, stopping in Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando, where she addressed a rally in the heavily Hispanic Meadow Woods area of south Orlando.
Orlando was the second of the three stops, where up to 600 people gathered at the Meadow Woods Magic Recreation Center to hear the Democratic presidential candidate speak for about an hour on a number of broad issues, from immigration to infrastructure. Clinton clearly understood that Meadow Woods is not only 65 percent Hispanic but, more important, it‘is 59 percent Puerto Rican.
Clinton mentioned Puerto Ricans or Puerto Rico about seven times during her speech, advocating for a long-term solution to the island’s fiscal crisis, which includes more than $70 billion in debt. (Congressional leaders were meeting the same day with Puerto Ricans who traveled to Washington for a National Day of Action to draw attention to the issue. Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on a plan to help the island get back on its feet, meaning that, sadly, no action is likely before the end of 2015.)
“Some people are starting to call this part of Florida the 79th municipality of Puerto Rico,” Clinton commented, adding that she had visited the island earlier this year, where she raised more than $500,000 in presidential campaign funds. “Any president should pay attention to Puerto Rico.”She invoked Puerto Rican megastar Ricky Martin, saying “Ricky Martin said to demand respect. We’re going to demand respect.”
Clinton talked about the infrastructure proposal her campaign unveiled earlier in the week. “Let’s fix our roads and infrastructure. Right here in Orlando you waste 46 hours a year stuck in traffic.” And she took direct aim at Gov. Rick Scott, stating he had returned $2 billion in infrastructure funds to Washington.
That was the red meat portion of her speech, which elicited boos from the crowd, as did mention of Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas.
Although Meadow Woods is heavily Hispanic, the Clinton rally drew a mixed crowd – racially, ethnically, by age and gender – evidence of a marked difference with Republicans, who are having a hard time attracting diverse voters, an issue that will loom large in the general election. Last month a Ted Cruz activity in Orlando drew a homeogenous crowd of mostly non-Hispanic whites and a good chunk of elderly.
Cruz’s event lured very few people like Amanda Ríos, 17, who expects to cast her very first vote in 2016 for Hillary Clinton. “We’ll be making history,” said the Cypress Creek High School senior, referring not only to her own vote but to the nation’s potential first female president. “She’s more relatable. She has more experience,” said Amanda, who was carrying a “Puerto Ricans for Hillary” sign and was accompanied by her father Domingo.
Clinton’s experience was very much on the minds of many attendees, who lauded her gravitas and potential know-how. “She’s been in the White House and knows the inner workings,” said Sandra Fatmi, 48, of Pine Hills and an immigrant from Jamaica. “I don’t have a shadow of a doubt that Hillary will be elected.”
Megan Westbrook, 35, of College Park came to the rally with a mission to hand Clinton her thesis about congressional collaboration. “I definitely support Hillary. My grandma worked with Bill and Hillary in Arkansas,” Westbrook said. “My grandparents always talked about how diligent Bill and Hillary Clinton were.”
The Survey Says …
Clinton studiously avoided any mention of the email scandal that has dogged her campaign, negatively impacting the public’s perception of her trustworthiness, with 51 percent having an unfavorable opinion of Clinton, according to a national Quinnipiac poll conducted at the end of November. However, Real Clear Politics indicates Democrats are not bothered by the email issue. Clinton is the heavy favorite among Democrats by as much as 58 percent in some polls.
˜˜Maria T. Padilla, Editor