FLORIDA CITY — Former President Bill Clinton downplayed the FBI's renewed investigation into his wife's emails as secretary of state during a campaign stop in Florida City on Wednesday.
Clinton told more than 200 supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton that the reopening of the email probe "shouldn't" change their minds because his wife has been talking about the issue over the past year and has still won the support of top military and national security experts across the political spectrum.
"They know what the real security issue is," Clinton told the throng at the Florida City Youth Activity Center. "The real security issue is having somebody who will keep you safe and strong while we can grow our way together."
The Clinton campaign has been on the offensive since Friday, when FBI Director James Comey told Congress that his investigators would be reviewing additional emails potentially related to their initial inquiry into the former secretary of state's use of a private server and her handling of classified emails. Comey's explosive disclosure just 11 days before the Nov. 8 election followed his announcement in July that the FBI would not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton.
Her husband's campaign stop in the minority farming community on the southern edge of Miami-Dade County was the first of three scheduled in Florida on Tuesday. The other two were in Immokalee and St. Petersburg.
The former president quipped that he would be remiss if he didn't ask the crowd to participate in early voting and ask others to do so before Election Day. Early voting, which started on Oct. 24, is expected to be a critical factor in Florida's presidential race between Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, who are locked in a dead heat in the state, according to polls.
"I just want to mention the real reason I'm here," said Clinton, who was wearing a light brown sport jacket. "If you don't vote, I might as well not be talking.... Otherwise, this might as well be at a concert, and I can sing you a song."
Clinton then devoted much of his midday speech to touting his wife's positions on the economy, education, healthcare and immigration reform, pointing out the sharp policy differences between her and Trump.
Clinton described Trump as a wealthy businessman who like other Republicans over the past generation has embraced "trickle-down" economics, resulting in tax cuts for the rich but little for the rest of society. He said that as a southerner, he understands the meaning of Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," saying Trump wants to erase the historic accomplishments of minorities and women as he panders to struggling white Ameircans.
"It means, 'I will give the economy you had 50 years ago,'" Clinton told his wife's supporters. "It means, 'I will give you the society you had 50 years ago.'"
Clinton said Trump's demagoguery has tricked his supporters into blaming others, such as undocumented immigrants, for their own struggles in the increasingly global economy.
"This election is turning into a debate about what it means to be an American in the 21st century," he said.
The former president was introduced by a Miami-Dade Honors College student who came with his parents from Peru to the United States when he was six years old.
Gonzalo Nuñez, 20, who hopes to attend Bill Clinton's alma mater, Georgetown University, to study international relations, said he supports Hillary Clinton because "she understands my struggles."
Nuñez decried Trump's campaign pledge to build a wall along the southwestern border to keep out Mexicans, some of whom the Republican described as criminals and rapists.
"Donald Trump doesn't want me here," Nuñez told the crowd at the Florida City Youth Activity Center. "He wants to deport me."
After Clinton's speech, Florida City resident Barbara Collier said she already voted for Clinton. "She's for the kids and she's for the community — despite what they say about her emails."