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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill Clinton rallies Democrats in St. Pete



Former President Bill Clinton urged hundreds of supporters Tuesday to vote and do it early.

"If people who are for Hillary, vote for Hillary, she'll win Florida and be our next president," Clinton said. 

Most in the crowd at the Thomas "Jet" Jackson Recreation Center in a predominantly black Wildwood neighborhood appeared to have already done that. When former governor Charlie Crist, who warmed up the crowd for Clinton, asked for a show of hands of early voters, most of the racially-mixed crowd raised their hands.

Clinton spoke for about 37 minutes, driving home the message that Republic nominee Donald Trump didn't have the interests of black Americans at heart and played to the nostalgia of white voters who didn't realize or mind that the America they missed hadn't treated minorities fairly.

Clinton said, he remembered power brokers telling black people how to vote in the pre-Civil Rights South.  

"As a 70-year-old Southerner, I know what will make America great again," Clinton said. Ensuring voting rights for all Americans ranks high on that last, he said.

Clinton also spoke highly of Crist, saying he took a moral stand when he pushed for the restoration of voting rights for felons as governor. Crist is locked in a battle for the 13th Congressional District. Incumbent Republican David Jolly has focused most of his energy in the past few weeks attempting to undercut Crist's support among black voters, reminding them of Crist's one-time support for prison chain gangs.

The former president ticked off Hillary Clinton's plans, including her desire to spend billions improving the nation's infrastructure. That, Clinton told the crowd,  would include protecting coastal cities from rising seas associated with climate change. He  also advocated ridding students of college debt and improving the lives of the middle class.

"We need to get this country back in the future business," Clinton said. 

And he contrasted his wife's vision of a united, competitive nation with what he painted as the paranoid, dystopian vision of Trump.

"We've got to decide who we are," Clinton said to the roaring cheers of the hundreds in attendance.


[Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2016 7:33pm]


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