Shaking up the stereotypes in swing states

As they say, rather colourfully, in these parts – Florida is the whole enchilada.

In other words, it has got the lot, it is the full deal. You have got to have it all.

Without Florida you will not win the White House.

Which is why Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been flying in and out this swing state like a shuttle service trying to get people out the vote.

As local Democratic analyst Jessica Erhlich told me, it’s called “plugging the gaps”.

She explained: “Where they hold their rallies tells you exactly where their own internal polls show a weakness in voter support.”

And from what I have seen and heard on my travels through Florida, there are still plenty of votes up for grabs. Florida is far from a done deal.

Chatting to people queuing to get into a Hillary rally in Tampa, I was struck by how many of them had been to a Trump event the night before.

Now they wanted to take a look at Mrs Clinton.

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Rita, a middle-aged white woman, was fairly typical. She said: “I’m still undecided. I want to hear what both candidates have to say before I make up my mind.”

And she added: “Frankly I wouldn’t have picked either of them as candidates. But you gotta vote for someone.”

It is hard to tell yet if the latest investigation into Mrs Clinton’s emails has damaged her. So far nobody I have talked to has said it will change their vote.

I joined Sable and Reca, young black executives as they sipped cocktails at a sidewalk bar.

“Look, I’m a Democrat. I wouldn’t have picked Hillary as my party’s candidate. But I’ll stick with her,” said Reca.

Sable added: “Trump’s only good for comedy, not the White House. He’s a joke. I could never vote for him.”

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But what has surprised me is the depth and variety of support for Mr Trump.

In a melting pot state of race and culture like Florida, I had been led to believe that older white men with less education would vote for Trump, while the rapidly growing Hispanic population, African-Americans, women and millennials were more likely to back Hillary.

Over at The Villages, a city of 150,000 and the fastest-growing retirement community in the US, it was fairly predictable.

In pretty, spotless, tranquil streets built to reflect the American Dream, just about every golf cart had a Trump sticker. The only exceptions read: “Hillary for prison”. So no mistaking the voting sentiment here.

At the City Fire Grill and Bar, a group of Vietnam veterans left me in no doubt that Mrs Clinton represents everything that is wrong with Washington politics and America in general.

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As former command sergeant Bob said: “Trump’s the man. He’s going to get America back for us.”

Though Stan admitted he did have reservations about Mr Trump. And his wife Martha admitted: “I’m voting for Trump. But don’t ask me why!”

Back at Tampa waterfront, Sheree McGarry, a vivacious accountant in her 30s, was keen to demonstrate that well-educated whites were backing Trump too.

She said: “I’ve got three degrees in economics and accounting and I love Trump. He’s got great ideas, he’s outside the corrupt establishment and he knows how to put the country right.”

Retired Hispanic manual worker Rodrigo nodded in agreement, adding: “I’m voting for Trump.” Another stereotype confounded.

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Fred Mastro, an IT guy of Puerto Rican and Italian descent, told me: “I simply don’t trust Hillary. So I guess Trump gets my vote as he’s the lesser of two evils.”

At Tabernero’s cigar factory in the historic Hispanic district of Ybor City, Jake was pulling on a large cigar and squeezing a Hillary stress ball. 

He said: “Trump is a cartoon figure. But he’s got something about him.”

The factory’s manager, Jim Collins, agreed with him that many Trump supporters are keeping quiet at the moment.

He said: “Trust me. On election day, they’ll all come out of the closet and vote for Trump. He could win this state.”

On the other side of Florida I got a similar view from Uber driver Nick. “I call it the Uber prediction,” as he explained how he’d counted campaign posters all year on his taxi trips.

“There are thousands for Trump. But I’ve honestly only seen two or three for Hillary. On that basis I reckon Trump will win Florida by a mile.”

You never know. Maybe taxi man will prove more accurate than pollster man.

What do you think?

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