Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Donate today to support the journalism you rely on!

In Florida, People Wait For Hours To Get Into Presidential Rallies


We dropped by a rally for Donald Trump the other day and then went to one for Hillary Clinton. Both were in the battleground state of Florida. We talked with people who were first in line to see each candidate and heard their wildly different views in the same state. Before the Trump rally in Tampa, a mass of people waited for a gate to swing open. Hi, guys.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How are you? Don't move anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's all right. It's all right.

INSKEEP: We're just reporters coming out.


UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP SUPPORTER #2: Are you good reporters or bad ones?

UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP SUPPORTER #1: Where are you from, hon?

INSKEEP: We stood by that chain-link gate, surrounded by people who started lining up nine and a half hours early.

You guys ever feel a little claustrophobic up here against the chain-link fence?

JOSEPH PITTA: No, we want (unintelligible) against the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP SUPPORTER #3: Yeah, we feel like Hillary should feel.

PITTA: We want people against the wall. You know why? Listen to me, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED TRUMP SUPPORTER #4: Yeah, but it's going to be taller.

INSKEEP: We did listen to Joseph Pitta. He said decades ago, his father waited his turn to come to the United States from Italy. He's convinced immigrants today don't wait.

PITTA: And these people come in just like - like cows. You know, the cows come out together? They all come in.

INSKEEP: The border is guarded by more than 20,000 Border Patrol agents. But the millions of people in the U.S. without documents are on the minds of Trump supporters here.

DIANE FINER: I'm a strong believer of the wall. I'm a strong believer of the refugees not coming in because they can't be vetted from places like Syria.

INSKEEP: Diane Finer is retired. She used to work for the New Jersey State Police. She's weathered hard times and now owns a house on the Gulf Coast. Yet, like her candidate, she sees disaster all around.

How do you feel about the state of this community that you've lived in the last few years?

FINER: As far as?

INSKEEP: In terms of the economy, society...

FINER: Oh, terrible. And Trump is the man to fix it, believe me.

INSKEEP: I just want to mention...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Guys, I need you to take two steps backward, everybody, please - large steps.

INSKEEP: The line stretched back out of sight. People were selling hats, dressed like Donald Trump, listening to a Trump salsa song.


RUBEN OBED MARTINEZ: (Singing) The answer is simple. His name is Donald. He's going to make us great again.

INSKEEP: Someone pointed out a man by that gate. He's a Gold Star dad, they said.

A Gold Star dad?


INSKEEP: Hey, how are you?

KRIS HAGER: We're scheduled to have a meeting with Mr. Trump.

INSKEEP: Kris Hager said his son was killed in Iraq.

What was his name?

HAGER: Staff Sergeant Joshua Ryan Hager.

INSKEEP: You must have been proud of him.

HAGER: They don't make - I mean, he was the bravest man I know.

INSKEEP: Why did you come here today?

HAGER: Trump asked me to. They invited us to come and sit down and talk. And I'll take that opportunity. I met Mr. Trump in Jacksonville, and I said, if you're so honored to be in the White House, I think you should have a Gold Star parent as the first person you see every morning so that you look into the eyes of somebody whose son or daughter died protecting this country. And he looked at General Flynn, and he said General, that's a great idea. And...

INSKEEP: Oh, General Michael Flynn...

HAGER: Yeah.

INSKEEP: ...Who's one of his advisers.

HAGER: He was there. And Michael Flynn's awesome.

INSKEEP: Have you been supporting Trump all along?

HAGER: Nope - was not before that.

INSKEEP: What did you think about when you heard the whole story about the Khans and his dispute with the Khans, the other Gold Star family?

HAGER: I know I would give him a hug.

INSKEEP: Mr. Khan?

He said he had sympathy for the Muslim father of a fallen soldier who spoke up for Clinton at the Democratic convention. But he also offered a conspiracy theory.

HAGER: But nobody's going to pay me for my vote, and Hillary paid him.

And he took her money.

INSKEEP: A story circulating on the internet claims the Khans were paid by the Clinton Foundation. Fact-checkers have rated that false.

Trump supporters by this gate have been following polls. They discount the one showing Trump losing and focus on the ones that show the race close. Many said they can't believe - honestly cannot believe - that the country could elect someone with all the flaws of Hillary Clinton.

And there we go. Everybody's being let in.


INSKEEP: There's a gentleman with an American flag bandana and a T-shirt that says, Trump that bitch.

UNIDENTIFIED CLINTON SUPPORTERS: (Chanting) Love trumps hate. Love trumps hate.

INSKEEP: We heard the opposite view across the state at a Hillary Clinton rally.

UNIDENTIFIED CLINTON SUPPORTERS: (Chanting) Love trumps hate. Love trumps hate.

INSKEEP: Where Trump fans in Tampa had salsa, the Clinton fans in Broward County had a bullhorn. The line to get in curved around a college parking lot.

Are you guys at the front of the line?



INSKEEP: How long you guys been here?

ROUSE: Seven-fifty.

INSKEEP: You came here at 7:50 in the morning?

ROUSE: Yeah.

INSKEEP: And right now it's midday, and you've got a couple of more hours before the rally itself. Jamari Rouse and Lydia Silva are boyfriend and girlfriend. They're both high school seniors, both voting in their first election. She's Latina; he's African-American, members of vital voter groups for Clinton.

SILVA: In the 2008 election, I was probably, like, 10 years old, but I wanted Hillary Clinton.

INSKEEP: Do you remember why, as a kid, that you wanted that?

SILVA: Maybe because she was a woman. You know, when you're a young girl, you would love to see, you know, a woman in authority.

INSKEEP: And as she's grown up she has found reasons to agree with Clinton's support for changes to immigration law. She was a child when her father was sent home to Brazil.

SILVA: My dad - he actually got deported. That's why I'm really - this really worries me, you know, because I lost - my dad got taken away from me. And that's something I can never get back.

INSKEEP: Her boyfriend, Jamari, is a star football player. He's eager to go away to college. But as a young black man, he's concerned about what police may do when he gets there.

ROUSE: The only thing I'm really worried about is, you know, profiling - specifically profiling, you know, when I go off to another state because they're not really going to know who I am or, you know, the type of person I am or my views or thoughts. So, you know, I can get profiled pretty easy.

INSKEEP: Even here in Broward County, he says police stopped him once.

ROUSE: They asked me if I had drugs. I told them no. They put me on the floor.

INSKEEP: How long ago did that happen?

ROUSE: I was, like, maybe in eighth grade.

INSKEEP: It emerged that Jamari and Lydia disagree about police. She aspires to be a police officer.

When he tells you he's been put on the ground before, do you say well, listen, there are certain things police have to do when they're doing their job? Is that it?

SILVA: I believe so because they wouldn't just put you on the ground for no reason.

ROUSE: I don't do drugs, you know. I'm not a violent person at all. You know, I try to be a pacifist. You know, I don't like fighting. I don't agree with it at all, you know what I mean.

INSKEEP: They reenacted a debate that's torn much of this country, even though they are both supporting Clinton now.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Let's keep the line nice and tight, folks.

INSKEEP: After talking with people in line at a Trump rally and then a Clinton rally, it's tempting to say we found people in two different countries. But they know they share the same country, which is on the mind of Clinton voter Melissa Tarling.

In listening, as I imagine you have, to people who support Trump - maybe you meet someone who - I don't know. Do you ever meet...

MELISSA TARLING: Yeah, my co-worker.

INSKEEP: Your co-worker?


INSKEEP: Have you had discussions with your co-worker?


INSKEEP: Or is it a little hard even to talk about it?

TARLING: It's a little hard when she looks at me - and I'm her boss - and she says, you know, she's disgusting, lock her up. Or she posts - I've unfriended her on Facebook because I just - I don't want to be a part of it.

INSKEEP: Seconds later, the Secret Service at the Clinton rally gestured the first people in line toward the metal detectors.

The line's going in. OK.

We were outside two campaign rallies in Florida. And elsewhere in this hour, we hear the case each candidate made inside. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.