Al Gore tells Floridians their vote 'really, really, really counts'

Trump tells Floridians to vote on Nov. 28, not Election Day on Nov. 8

Seeking to generate a sense of urgency about voting with four weeks to go until Election Day, Hillary Clinton's campaign brought in the man who knows more than anything about the importance of a small number of votes — Al Gore — to campaign for her in Florida.

"Your vote really, really, really counts," Gore said Tuesday. "You can consider me as Exhibit A of that."

Gore lost Florida — and because of it the presidency — by 537 votes in the 2000 election.

When the crowd at the Miami Dade College Kendall campus started chanting "you won, you won, you won," a feeling held by many Democrats 16 years after the disputed election, the former vice president said the audience needed to make sure there isn't a repeat in 2016.

"I don't want you to be in the position years from now where you welcome Hillary Clinton and say, actually you did win," Gore said. "Elections have consequences. Your vote counts. Your vote has consequences."

Both presidential campaigns emphasized Florida on Tuesday. Former President Bill Clinton was two counties north, campaigning on his wife's behalf in Belle Glade — on their 41st wedding anniversary.

In the heavily Republican Panhandle, Trump held an evening rally in Panama City Beach, where he also urged the crowd to vote. 

But he mistakenly told them to vote on Nov. 28 instead of on Election Day, which in 2016 falls on Nov. 8. The gaffe quickly made the rounds of social media. Gore too gave the crowd the wrong date -- Nov. 4. 

In her South Florida appearance on Tuesday, Clinton devoted almost all her 22-minute speech to climate change — with a boost from Gore, who has made global climate change his signature issue since he lost the 2000 election.

"When it comes to the most urgent issue in the world, the choice is extremely clear: Hillary Clinton will make solving the climate crisis a top national priority," Gore said. He said Trump "would take us toward a climate catastrophe."

Many Republicans deny the existence of climate change or the role humans play in it. Trump has repeatedly called climate change a hoax and has sometimes suggested the idea came from the Chinese as part of its plan to hurt American manufacturing jobs.

In addition to Clinton and Trump, "the future of Miami and cities up and down the West Coast and the East Coast of Florida are on the ballot as well. Indeed the entire state of Florida and its future are on the ballot," Gore said during a 23-minute speech.

Clinton and Gore cited Hurricane Matthew as evidence of harm caused by climate change. They said the storm was worse because of changes in the planet's climate. Clinton said it is a mistake to simply think there have always been destructive hurricanes.

Matthew's strengthening from tropical storm to Category 5 hurricane "in just 36 hours," Gore said, "is very unusual." He provided a lengthy and detailed explanation of heat trapped in the atmosphere warming the ocean. He said the resulting warmer Caribbean Sea is why it spun into a Category 5 storm so quickly.

Both candidates said sea level rise means the storm surge from the hurricane was worse than it would have been had oceans not been rising. Since Hurricane Andrew devastated south Miami-Dade County in 1992, Gore said, the sea level in the waters around Florida has gone up 3 inches. That translates into greater storm surge after a hurricane and more routine flooding.

As Gore detailed a range of perils exacerbated by climate change, Clinton sat behind him, often nodding her head. Among them:

• Street flooding in some coastal communities. "Yes, there are now at high tides sometimes fish from the oceans swimming in some of the streets of Miami Beach and Delray and Fort Lauderdale," Gore said.

• The spread of the Zika virus is worsened by the warming climate, Gore said. Changes in climate mean such diseases can take root in different places and that mosquitoes bite more often when it's warmer.

He said such ills "are really wake-up calls for us. Mother Nature is giving us a very clear and powerful message. We cannot continue putting 110 million tons of global warming producing pollution in the atmosphere every day as if it's an open sewer."

Republicans said Gore's appearance wouldn't do anything to help Clinton. "If Hillary Clinton was not already out of touch, now she brings in a figurehead of the establishment from a decade-and-a-half ago to help her campaign reach young people," state Rep. Carlos Trujillo said in a statement issued by the Trump campaign.

"Donald Trump is connecting with voters of all ages because his outsider approach will end the rigged system that has left too many Americans behind," said Trujillo, a Miami-Dade County Republican whose district includes part of south Broward.

Clinton's rally at Miami Dade College was in the same gymnasium where former Gov. Jeb Bush announced his ultimately unsuccessful candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in June 2015. Her lectern was in almost exactly the same spot as Bush's.

One big difference: the gym was configured for a much larger crowd for Bush than Clinton. The venue was filled to capacity for Bush, with at least 3,000 people on hand. On Tuesday, Clinton drew 1,600.

Clinton spoke before Gore, declaring, "Climate change is real. It's urgent. And America can take the lead in the world in addressing it." Taking action ,she said, means "we can fulfill our moral obligation to protect our planet" and make the U.S. the world leader in well-paying jobs through clean-energy technology.

She said little about Trump, referring to him as "a guy who denies science, denies climate change."

Clinton said the problem goes beyond hurricanes. "If you need proof that climate change is real," she recommended looking at South Florida cities that have flooding at high tide. And, she said, it's not just a problem in Florida, pointing to drought in California, wildfires in the western U.S., and Pentagon concerns about rising sea levels affecting naval bases.

Murphy vs. Rubio

The Clinton campaign also sought Tuesday to give a boost to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-West Miami. Murphy was pushed by Clinton, Gore and warm-up speakers, and he was on hand to help introduce Clinton.

Murphy repeatedly attempted to link Rubio to Trump.

"We're not going to modernize our energy policies with Donald Trump's racist bullying and Marco Rubio's silence," Murphy said. "We're certainly not going to fight climate change with Donald Trump's misogynistic attacks."

Murphy and Clinton mocked Rubio's statement that he couldn't verify climate change because he isn't a scientist. "Senator, you don't need to be a scientist. Look out the window. High tides are flooding the streets on Miami Beach. Yet he still refuses to act."

Clinton suggested that Rubio "ask a scientist and then maybe he'd understand."

Rubio's campaign said in a statement that Murphy would be a "rubber stamp for Hillary Clinton." Rubio criticized Trump's sexually charged comments that surfaced last week, but is still endorsing his candidacy. Still, a spokesman said, Rubio "is the only candidate who will stand up to whoever the next president is."

Bill Clinton in Belle Glade

In Belle Glade, about 450 people heard the former president argue his case for why his wife would make the best choice for president.

"She's the best change-maker I know," Bill Clinton said. "I should know, I've known her a long time — today is my 41st wedding anniversary."

At the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center on Palm Beach State College's Belle Glade campus, a mariachi band kicked off the proceedings. Following the national anthem, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay called on a mostly African-American audience to vote against Trump.

Trump lived part-time just 40 miles away for 30 years, McKinlay said, and had a chance to hire people from the Glades, but instead opted to hire foreign workers.

"Are we better with walls or bridges?" Bill Clinton asked the crowd, who called back "Bridges!"

"I tell you what. We just had our 79th straight month of increasing employment," Bill Clinton said. "That's never happened before."

Bill Clinton spent much of his speech discussing an infrastructure program that would, according to the former president, bring jobs to the area. He said that infrastructure doesn't just mean roads, bridges and seaports.

"There's way more to it. In Florida, you need to make sure rising sea levels don't flood your cities out. You need to make sure the Everglades aren't 10 feet underwater."

He drew cheers at the state college when he mentioned free college tuition for people making less than $125,000, and debt refinancing for those who already owe for their education.

"That will change the future of America," he said. "Everything we need to do is fairly straightforward, achievable and affordable. There are two things that could threaten it. Continued partisan gridlock in Washington and … all the upheaval," by which he meant terrorism and the mass movement of refugees and migrants.

Trump on the trail

Tuesday night in Panana City Beach, Trump called Clinton an "all-talk politician" who is "crooked as a three-dollar bill."

"Folks, folks, we're being led by stupid people," he told the crowd of about 11,000 at Pier Park Amphitheater. Several thousand more people ringed the gates of the venue.  

"This election will determine whether we remain a free country in the truest sense of the word or we become a corrupt banana republic controlled by large donors and foreign governments," Trump said. "The election of Hillary Clinton would lead to the destruction of our country, believe me."

On Wednesday, Trump is scheduled to appear in Ocala and Lakeland. On Thursday, Trump holds a rally at the Expo Center at the South Florida Fairgrounds west of West Palm Beach.

Information from Tribune Wire Services and the Tallahassee Democrat was used in this report.

aman@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4550

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