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When a fat man, a thin woman and a dwarf meet to discuss politics in a studio with a bottle of tequila and a Mariachi band playing in the background, you know you are watching the latest episode of the 2016 White House race.
Hillary Clinton sat down with the hosts of El Gordo y La Flaca, a popular Univision show which translates as “The Fat Man & The Thin Lady”, in Miami as part of her final pitch to Latino voters. She entered through a door that was opened by Carlitos el Prodoctor, a dwarf who later taught her some Spanish words and offered her some cookies — which due to secret service concerns she only nibbled — and a bottle of tequila ahead of her 69th birthday on Wednesday.
While Donald Trump started his election campaign describing Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, Mrs Clinton is closing hers with a message aimed at ensuring that Latinos, a group that has grown as a proportion of the electorate but has a lower propensity to vote, cast their ballots in early voting or go to the polls on November 8.
In a very soft interview, Mrs Clinton was pressed by Raúl de Molina, the male host, to name her favourite food. “I think it would be Mexican food,” said Mrs Clinton, who later tried to make another connection with the audience by saying that her two-year old granddaughter was learning to speak some Spanish words.
Her choice of food seemed a bit off key in Florida, a state where the Latino electorate, dominated by Cubans and Puerto Ricans, is less than 10 per cent Mexican. One Latino voter said her answer was odd, but that it was clearly not pre-cooked since, “If it was scripted, it would have been a better answer”.
But she was not just playing to Florida Latinos. Mexican-American audiences are big in states such as Nevada and Arizona, which has only voted for a Democrat once in seven decades and now appears to be heading in Mrs Clinton’s direction because of Hispanic revulsion to Mr Trump’s comments.
Florida is the most important swing state because it offers 29 of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House. It is seen as must-win for Mr Trump, who most experts believe has a narrower path to victory than his rival. Mrs Clinton has beaten Mr Trump in eight of the last 10 polls in Florida, and leads him by an average of 1.8 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics. But underscoring the close nature of the race, they tied in one of the latest poll.
Speaking en route to Miami on Tuesday, Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton team spokeswoman, said the campaign “don’t plan to lose Florida” but were “blessed to have a lot of paths” to 270. “If we win Florida, it is very difficult for [Trump],” she said. “The priority for us this week is states where people are voting in big numbers right now. Florida, Nevada, Iowa, North Carolina — these are all states where we expect that the majority of people will have voted before election day.”
“Donald Trump says he could still win, and he could if our people get complacent,” Ms Palmieri added. “So that I would say is one of our biggest concerns.”
Asked on the TV show how she would help Latinos, Mrs Clinton said: “I hope that I would be a good president for everyone in the United States, but I want to pay particular attention to the Latino community to get comprehensive immigration reform finally done with a path to citizenship. As soon as I get into the White House, I am not waiting.”
After being treated to a rendition of “Happy Birthday” by Prince Royce (a Latino singer who is helping to rally Hispanic voters), dancing with the hosts, and receiving a four-tier birthday cake with a White House on top, Mrs Clinton said: “What gets better than this?”
Earlier, Mrs Clinton held a rally at Broward College where she said Americans were coming together because of the “unprecedented attack on our democracy” — a reference to the refusal by Mr Trump to guarantee that he would accept the result of the election. She said more than 200m Americans were registered to vote, including a record 50m young people, and that of the 6m people who have already voted in the 2016 race, more than 1m were in Florida.
“You only see numbers like this when people are standing up for what they really believe in and that includes not just Democrats but Republicans and independents coming together to reject hate and division. And I am so excited about what that means,” she said. “I feel good, but boy I am not taking anything for granted.”
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