The weather was hot, sunny and dry, and despite it being the middle of a weekday, the line for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's Wednesday rally stretched for blocks as supporters waited to get into Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa.
Her visit comes two days after her Republican opponent Donald Trump rallied at an arena packed with upwards, supposedly, of 20,000 supporters Monday night.
The two candidates are within shootin' distance of one another, if the most recent polls are to be believed, and Clinton's critics often comment on social media that Trump's large rally crowds — especially in comparison to the number of attendees at Clinton's typically more intimate gatherings — are a clear indicator that his victory Nov. 8 is imminent.
Sound logic, really; just ask President Mitt Romney.
In any case, Clinton did manage to fill the lawn that was roped off for the event, and then some. Fans lined the sidewalk overlooking the park. Some even watched from surrounding apartment buildings and parking garages.
And even if that did actually matter — which, seriously, it doesn't — Clinton and her surrogates were more focused on their message of inclusion, opportunity and investment in youth.
In fact, unlike Donald Trump, she did not once mention the size of her crowd.
She and her supporters were more worried about people actually getting out to the polls.
“With 13 days left in this election we cannot stop for a minute. No complacency here. No flagging. We've got to get everybody out to vote,” she said.
She spent much of her 25-minute address stating the policy (and personality) differences between her and her opponent, namely on economic proposals — she supports raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women, asking the super-rich to pay their fair share in taxes, investing in infrastructure. Calling Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn by his first name, she said she would fund infrastructure like the rail system he has been proposing for years.
Most of that is quite a bit different from Trump's economic proposals.
“We've actually learned during this campaign that Donald Trump is the poster boy for everything wrong with the economy. He refuses to pay workers and contractors from Atlantic City to Miami to Las Vegas. He stiffs small businesses — I take that one personally because my dad was a small businessman," she said. "That is not the kind of experience we need in the Oval Office.”
And she had quite a bit of fodder from last Wednesday night's debate with Trump, which was the third and final between the two before Nov. 8.
“You know, I have now stood next to Donald Trump for four-and-a-half hours, proving conclusively I have the stamina to do the job. And every time he says one of those outrageous things... I just keep remembering Michelle Obama's words: when they go low, we go high," she said. "But I've got to say, he's said something in the last debate that I've never heard anybody say with respect to the results of the election. Now, this is a guy who said the Emmys were rigged, so you can't really take what he says, you know, very seriously."
Yet there was that one thing that freaked a bunch of people out, she continued.
"But this is a problem, because the first thing a president does at noon on January 20th is to take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. And you are casting doubts, or keeping people in suspense as to whether you will respect the outcome of the election? That is contrary to who we are as a country. We've had our elections from George Washington forward. We're going to keep having them and show what a democracy looks like to the rest of the world."
She had quite a roster of local and national luminaries stumping for her ahead of her appearance, including Buckhorn, actress Angela Bassett (who also stumped for her in St. Pete Tuesday) and Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-Tampa).
Among more recent headline-grabbing surrogates who took the podium Wednesday was celebrity chef Jose Andrés, who had been planning on opening a Spanish-Japanese fusion restaurant in Trump's new Washington, D.C. hotel that held its grand opening Wednesday (for which Trump took the day off from the campaign trail to attend).
Andrés, who emigrated from Spain decades ago and is now involved in a messy legal battle over pulling out of the Trump project, had tweeted earlier that he would be attending Clinton's rally in Tampa and told the audience he was appalled at Trump's positions on immigration — part of the reason he pulled out of the deal.
“Immigrants like me, like many of you, we had to leave the land of our birth for it. Immigrants like me we had to work hard for it. Immigrants like me we had to wait for it,” he said. “Someone talks about making America great again. Who are you? Where you come from? Where have you been? Look around you. Maybe he skipped history class.”
He added that those who have gone through the immigration process "understand better than most that to be American is a privilege” and that the battle for the White House "is about two forces — the forces of inclusion and the forces of exclusion.”
Castor, who said her daughter is voting in this election for the first time, said supporting Clinton over Trump isn't about wanting there to be a woman president for the first time ever; it's about who Clinton is, what she's accomplished and what she represents.
“It's not just the fact that Hill is going to be the first female president," Castor said. "It's the fact that she supports all of us.”
She urged the crowd — those of whom hadn't already voted — to get to the polls early. Just in case.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — another longtime Clinton fan — underscored the role Florida (especially the I-4 corridor, of which Tampa is part) plays in national elections.
“Florida, you know, is exceptionally important. That's why you're here," he said. “Look at the assault that has been coming at this candidate not just this year but for years. And look who is standing tall. And if there's any question about it, how about that third debate?”
Also, the crowd was fucking huge. Deal with it.