Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump this week visited Florida, a vitally important battleground state, to fight the campaign's final rounds.
To get an up-close look, NPR went to Tampa for a Trump rally on Monday and the next day, went to one for Clinton in Broward County in South Florida. For each rally, we met with voters who'd lined up hours early — then we passed through the Secret Service checkpoint and settled in for the show. Each rally sent many messages, both intended and unintended, and helped paint a stark portrait of two very different candidates.
In the first of two Florida rally stories, we meet voters waiting at the very front of each line to get in. In Tampa, those people had arrived 9 and a half hours before Trump's scheduled speech. Older and whiter than the population as a whole, they included Kris Hager, a Gold Star father who lost a son in Iraq, who was expecting to meet with Trump himself. It is heartbreaking to hear his story — and striking to hear what he thinks of the Khans, those other Gold Star parents whom Trump famously attacked over the summer.
At the Clinton rally, the line stretched around a college parking lot in the shape of a giant letter U. The people at the very front of the line had showed up 6 and a half hours early. They were both 18-year-old high school seniors, Jamari Rouse and Lydia Silva. They're boyfriend and girlfriend, black and Latina, representing vital voter groups for Hillary Clinton. Yet it's surprising to learn the visceral issue on which they deeply disagree.
The two campaign rallies were elaborately staged, yet still reveal a lot about each candidate. There are countless clues to the race in the lineup of speakers, for example. Clinton's rally was led by far in members of Congress (no Republican members appeared with Trump). But Trump's rally was led by famous football coaches. His warm-up speakers included retired Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden, who is no small catch in Florida.
When Trump and Clinton take the stage, you hear two candidates whose campaigns seem to be heading in opposite directions. The divergence is clear when each candidate talks about polls, and when the subject of this year's Senate races comes up.
Lauren Migaki and Taylor Haney produced this story for broadcast.