Clinton and Trump eye face-off in November
Party frontrunners pick battleground state of Florida for ‘Super Tuesday’ victory events
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump: “We have to rebuild our country. Our country is going to hell . . . and Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a clue.” Photograph: Scott Audette/Reuters
“AAF!” says Jim Consolantis, an advertising executive from Miami Beach, at the back of Hillary Clinton’s victory party in downtown Miami. “Always About Florida,” he adds, explaining the acronym.
Consolantis, who worked on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992, explains why Clinton is in Florida for her “Super Tuesday” victory party, even though it wasn’t one of the 11 states voting in the biggest day of the US presidential primaries – or the seven she won.
“She wants to plant her flag in Florida,” he said. “There’a lot of electoral votes coming up in Florida. It is a double-edged sword. She is fighting for the primary but also looking ahead to the general election.”
Others put it differently: “As Florida votes, so votes the nation.” The Sunshine State is America’s fourth most populous and the largest swing state in presidential elections, as Al Gore learned to his cost in 2000.
Florida, rich in delegates who will choose the Democratic nominee at the party’s national convention in July, votes in its primary on March 15th. Given her advantage of more than 600 delegates over Bernie Sanders following her seven- to four-state Super Tuesday wins over the Vermont senator, a Florida win would make her unstoppable.
“If we get to March 16th and he is still way behind in delegates, he has to take a serious look at his position. The day after the March 15th primary is a day of reckoning unless he wins big in those states.”
Her remarks reflected a softer, positive message as she pivots towards a general-election audience beyond Democrats, in contrast with the harder negativity of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
“What we need in America today is more love and kindness,” she said.
Attacking Trump’s “us” versus “them” campaign, she jabbed the businessman, referring to the slogan of his convention-confounding campaign that has tapped the anger of mostly white, blue-collar voters.
“We know we have got work to do but that work is not to make America great again. America never stopped being great,” she said.
An hour’s drive north at his Mar-a-Lago golf club in Palm Beach, Trump – who equalled Clinton’s seven-state victories on Super Tuesday and solidified his frontrunner status in the Republican race – focused too beyond his primary to the likely November head-to-head with her.
“We have to rebuild our country. Our country is going to hell . . . and Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a clue,” said the tough-talking billionaire.
Choosing to speak to reporters at a press conference rather than supporters at a victory rally, Trump dropped clues as to how he will attack the second-time presidential candidate. Most polls show Clinton beating Trump in hypothetical general-election match-ups.
“She’s been there for so long. If she hasn’t straightened it out by now, she’s not going to straighten it out in the next four years,” he said.
Trump showed no signs of dropping his down-and-dirty strategy that has been so effective in the Republican race. Dismissing internal Republican opposition to him being the nominee by describing himself as “a unifier”, he vowed “to go after one person: Hillary Clinton.”
“What she did was criminal,” he said. “If she is allowed to run it will be a sad day for this country because what she did is wrong. And other people have done far less than her and they paid a very, very high price.”
At Clinton’s victory party, Derek Duchesne, a phone app developer on business in Miami from Los Angeles, hinted at a general-election campaign that could be as nasty as the Republican primary.
“Both of them have a lot of skeletons in their closet, Hillary and Donald Trump, so it is going to be interesting to see what the public cares about most,” he said.
Melina Almodovar (37), a salsa singer from Puerto Rico living in Miami for 11 years, says she has traditionally been a Republican voter but Trump has turned her off the party this year, but she isn’t sure about Clinton either. “Hillary will probably be best for us. I hate Trump. I think he is the devil incarnate,” she said, laughing.