The FBI director’s decision to revisit Hillary Clinton’s email scandal may have jolted the US political establishment in the final countdown to election day, but supporters are shrugging it off as a non-issue.
The Democratic former secretary of state blazed through the critical swing state of Florida over the weekend, chalking up eight campaign stops from a Jennifer Lopez concert to church, branding FBI boss James Comey’s announcement “deeply troubling” and urging people to vote.
From an historically black university campus in the coastal town of Daytona Beach, to the rain-sodden Lopez gig in Miami and a packed gay night-club in Wilton Manors, she was greeted by enthusiastic crowds.
“There’s nothing going to be in those emails and even if there was something, it’s not that important. It’s not an important issue,” said Dirk Hartman, a US Navy veteran at her LGBT rally.
Far more important are jobs, the economy and foreign policy, and the fact that her bombastic Republican billionaire opponent Donald Trump would take America in the wrong direction, he said.
A record 200 million Americans have registered to vote in the November 8 election, 20 million of whom Clinton says have already voted, three million of them in Florida, which is a must-win state for Trump.
“People have already made up their minds,” said Hartman, a medical billing and coding specialist, originally from Pennsylvania but now living in Wilton Manors, a liberal bastion whose website describes itself as the second gay city in the country after a 2010 census.
“I think she’s going to win, even if it’s by two percent, she’s going to win,” he told AFP.
Although polls show a tightening race between Clinton and Trump, the latest poll of polls by tracker site RealClearPolitics still has Clinton a clear 3.4 percentage point average ahead of the Republican.
A CBS News poll in battleground states found that 71 percent of voters overall said the email development would not change their mind, or that they have already voted. Only five percent of Democrats polled across 13 states said it made them less likely to vote for Clinton.
On an overcast Sunday afternoon, hundreds of supporters squeezed shoulder to shoulder into The Manor Complex, a gay night-club with opulent chandeliers, roaring with delight when Clinton took the stage.
The former first lady, determined to make history as America’s first female commander-in-chief gave a shout-out to “hundreds” more outside, unable to get in, later appearing on the balcony to wave to them.
“When you’re knocked down, what matters is whether you get up again,” she told the rally. “We are just getting warmed up.”
John Sauer, a Fort Lauderdale nurse who believes Clinton is the most qualified candidate ever to seek the presidency, is savouring the prospect of her victory, eight years after her first White House run.
He dismisses FBI director James Comey’s announcement Friday that his agents are reviewing a newly discovered trove of emails as “a non-issue” and said he was going to vote early, after the rally.
“It was a little under-handed. I want more details. Everybody needs more details,” he told AFP of Comey’s move.
Last July, the case had appeared closed when the FBI chief criticised Clinton’s handling of sensitive information but recommended no charges over her use of a private email server while secretary of state. Stephen Perez, 45, a student and executive assistant to an attorney originally from New York also wanted answers, but said he was convinced it wouldn’t dent Clinton’s hopes at the ballot box.
“I wanted to know where that started from. Where did it come from? Who initiated it?” he said. “I think it would be logical for those answers to come quickly, now.”
His husband, Stephen Tarampi, 42, a registered nurse says he knows a lot of “very pro” Trump supporters at the hospital where he works, including Latinos despite the Republican’s offensive remarks about Mexicans.
“I’m always concerned,” he said. “But I’m hoping that people with the right mind will come out to vote, and think with their heads,” he said.