Hillary Clinton needs a hype man.
A crowd of about 1,200 filed languidly out of the Friday afternoon sun into the dank B. George Mayer Gymnasium at Broward College, waiting to catch a glimpse of the Democratic frontrunner for president of the United States. But there seemed to be very little enthusiasm for Hilary Clinton outside of the excitement of seeing someone famous. The gathering seemed to lack punch. The lukewarm feeling was palpable. A detachment bordering on indifference overtook the majority of those who waited about an hour for the former First Lady.
As the crowd waited for Mrs. Clinton to arrive, the loud speakers played music to try and get the audience in the rallying mood.
"Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson blared through the speakers, but was largely ignored by hushed conversations. At one point, some of the more spirited supporters tried to get the crowd by clapping to Pharrells' "Happy." The clapping quickly dissipated as the song kept playing without much fanfare.
Chants of "We want Hillary" began with fervor behind the makeshift stage where a rostrum with HillaryClinton.com splayed across the front stood. But the chant quickly died off when only a few joined in.
Even Jennifer Lopez's "Let's Get Loud" couldn't get much enthusiasm going. And this was a crowd of mostly college students.
Maybe Broward — the county with the most registered Democrats in the U.S. — still needs convincing.
The event, which was your garden variety political pep rally, didn't have the feel one usually gets for events like this. When a Presidential hopeful is slated to speak to supporters, the crowd is usually filled with a fervor that oftentimes drowns out the candidate on stage. And while this crowd was excited when Clinton finally arrived, it still lacked intensity and excitement. While Clinton addressed important issues, and took a stand on things such as gun control and student debt, the crowd felt decidedly flat before she arrived, and even during the speech itself.
Those New Times spoke with at the rally all seemed to have a let's-wait-and-see attitude.
"I'm waiting to see what she has to say," Marsha, a 37-year-old teacher said. "I'm very much a Democrat. And I will never vote Republican. But I don't know if I'm ready to give her my support. We'll see."
Marsha's friend, Kara, echoed those sentiments. When a Clinton volunteer walked over and offered the ladies free Hillary stickers to put on their shirts, they both declined.
"Ask us again after the event," Kara said.
Perry, an African American student who attends BC told New Times that he was actually hoping Bernie Sanders would make his way down to the college. Asked if he was excited about seeing Hillary, Perry said, "Yea. Sure. I guess. I mean, she's cool. She was Secretary of State, and she's smart. I mean, she has good ideas."
The volunteers milling about as the crowd made its way through the security gate handed out water bottles and tried to get folks to sign up to help get Hillary's campaign going. Very few did.
Another volunteer told New Times that Hillary is a better choice over Sanders because he's just too old.
"He's an old man," the woman, who didn't want to be identified, told New Times. "Do you know who we really fear? Marco Rubio. Do you know why? Because he's young. He can get people excited with his youth. Bernie won't be able to compete with that if he wins the primary. Bernie is 74 years old."
When reminded that Clinton is 67, the volunteer scoffed. "He can't beat Marco," she repeated. "That's the bottom line. We can't chance that."
This, and not Hillary's ideas and campaign promises, seemed to be the focus for why a Democrat in Broward should throw their support behind Clinton over Sanders. Age.
In recent months, we've seen Clinton's lead slide in the polls, with Sanders making headway and drumming up rabid passion from supporters. Sanders is nipping at Clinton's heels in the fundraising race. While she still leads Sanders in the more reputable polls, it's clear that the Senator from Vermont is giving Mrs. Clinton a serious run for her money. And his rallies are a cauldron of fervor and excitement.
What once seemed like a forgone conclusion for Hillary Clinton suddenly doesn't seem like such a slam dunk anymore.
Still, Clinton's speech wasn't without depth and solid moments.
A day after the Oregon shootings, Clinton went after the NRA and conservative candidates that back the gun-rights advocates.
"It is just heartbreaking. It is sickening to see another massacre," she said. "People should not be afraid to go to a college like this one or to go to the movie theater or go to Bible study. What is wrong with us that we can't stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby and the gun manufacturers?"
Clinton was also able to rouse the crowd of mostly students when she spoke of student debt loans being eliminated.
"We are going to make college affordable again," she said.
On Obamacare, Hillary went after Gov. Rick Scott and conservatives who oppose it.
"Because they said no to Medicaid, people are suffering, particularly working people, people of color, people who are disproportionately left out," Clinton said.
She even managed to take subtle jabs at Scott and Marco Rubio's stance on global warming, recalling the time both men said they weren't scientists when confronted with the issue.
"If you're not a scientist," she said, "go talk to a scientist."
Clinton worked the crowd as well as she could, even if took extra work to lift it out of its detached state.
Afterwards, people rushed back to class or to their cars, and continued to largely ignore the Hillary campaign folks asking for more volunteers.
Asked her impressions before and after the rally, a student named Sarah told New Times, "I like her. I'll probably vote for her. And I liked what she said about gun control."
Asked what her most memorable part of the rally was, she answered, "Probably right when she walked in. That was kind of exciting."
There are still several months before the Democratic primary, and the first debate is a few weeks away.
Clinton has some work to do. Particularly in the key county of one of the most important states.
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