- 2000 election ‘Exhibit A’ that every vote matters, Gore says
- Democrats capitalize on unity as Republicans feud with Trump
Former Vice President Al Gore campaigned with Hillary Clinton in Miami Tuesday for a reunion billed as an appeal to millennials sharing his urgency on climate change. But his presence broadcasts a more immediate political warning to Democrats and left-leaning undecided voters: Remember the 2000 election.
It was Florida that cost Gore the presidency even though he won the national popular vote by more than half a million ballots. George W. Bush took the state by a 537-vote margin after a lengthy recount, disputes over ballots and, ultimately a decision by the U.S. Supreme court. The outcome sparked an enduring debate over impact of third party candidates -- in that case Ralph Nader -- in close election contests.
“Please, take it from me: Every. Single. Vote. Counts,” Gore told the audience the audience of students and older adults at Miami Dade College. He called himself “Exhibit A” for that proposition.
As the crowd broke into shouts of “you won, you won,” Gore said he didn’t want them to be consoling Clinton years from now with that same chant.
With Republican nominee Donald Trump in the midst of an unprecedented public battle with party leaders less than a month before the election, Clinton is making the most of Democratic unity and bringing out some her party’s most popular figures, including President Barack Obama, to whip up enthusiasm for her campaign. Clinton is seeking to close off any path to victory for Trump and Florida, with 29 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, is central to that goal.
“If we win Florida, there’s no way my opponent can win,” Clinton told radio listeners in an interview Tuesday on Miami’s WMBM 1490 AM.
Clinton held a narrow 3-point lead over Trump in Florida, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted Oct. 3-4, before the state was lashed by Hurricane Matthew and last week’s release of a recording of Trump bragging about groping women. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson drew five percent and the Green Party’s Jill Stein had three percent.
Elaine DeLeonardis, who attended the Clinton rally and declined to give her age, said she was living in Florida in 2000 and voted for Gore. She said she remembers the election spectacle vividly. “It was embarrassing for Florida,” she said.
She hoped his campaigning for Clinton would remind other Democrats what can happen if the results are close, and she cautioned that Trump’s troubles don’t mean Clinton has it locked down. “Of course it’s not over,” she said. “We can’t be complacent.”
The joint appearance at Miami Dade College by the Democratic nominee and her husband’s thwarted political successor comes on the eve of the state’s registration deadline, unless the court decides to further extend it because of last week’s hurricane.
Obama, speaking in Greensboro, North Carolina, just a few hours after Clinton appeared in Miami, urged an enthusiastic audience to cast their votes. He called Clinton unquestionably qualified and said Trump is “somebody who over and over again has proven himself unfit” to serve as president. He mocked Trump, without naming him, for complaining that the system is rigged and blaming a microphone for his debate performance.
“The closer we get, the clearer the choice becomes,” Obama said. Recounting the lurid remarks Trump was captured saying on a 2005 recording, he said: “That’s not right. You just have to be a decent human being to say that’s not right.”
Trump has signaled he intends to conduct a scorched-earth campaign in the final weeks until the election, using past allegations of sexual misconduct against former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic nominee’s husband, to rally his most fervent supporters. Both Obama and Clinton were interrupted by people carrying signs or shouting: “Bill Clinton is a rapist.”
Two people walked to the front of the stage where Obama was speaking to display shirts with those words. Obama shrugged it off, saying they might be “auditioning for a reality show.”
“This is the great thing about politics in America,” he said. “It takes all kinds.”
In addition to the president, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden all are hitting the campaign trail for Clinton this week in swing states as they try to turn out young, minority, women and working-class voters. Bill Clinton had appearances in other parts of Florida on Tuesday, but he was not scheduled to appear alongside Gore. He also will campaign this week in Iowa.
Although Gore, 68, isn’t an obvious driver for younger voters, the issue of climate change is, and the former vice president has devoted his years since 2000 to elevating national and global awareness about the issue. His efforts were the subject of the 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and he shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with the International Panel on Climate Change.
Katherine Deutch, 24, who was among those in the audience, said tackling climate change is one of her top priorities in the election, and that her peers who are committed to environmental issues recognize Gore as a leader in the movement.
Clinton, 68, introduced Gore as one of the leading international activists against climate change, recalling his organizing one of the earliest congressional hearings on the issue in 1982. “Climate change is real; it’s urgent,” Clinton said, while saying Trump “denies science” and has called climate change a hoax. “We cannot risk putting a climate denier in the White House,” she said. “Climate change needs to be a voting issue.”
Clinton has described climate change as a threat to the economy and national security as well as the environment and human health. Her prepared remarks in Florida touch on the impacts from rising sea levels in Miami to Western drought, emphasize clean energy approaches and promote international accords such as the Paris Climate Agreement that is to take effect next month and that Trump opposes and has pledged to undo.