‘We don’t back down’: Clinton barnstorms across Florida after FBI announcement

WILTON MANORS, Fla. — In the 48 hours since FBI Director James Comey upended what looked like a potentially smooth ride to the White House for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee has barnstormed through South Florida asking her supporters to block out the “noise” in the final days of the election.

Clinton appeared at least seven times in her hectic swing through the state in venues as varied as a Jennifer Lopez concert in Miami and a Baptist church service in Fort Lauderdale. She was hoarse by the time she made her hastily arranged final stop at a gay club in Wilton Manors on Sunday afternoon.

“There have been ups and downs in all that we’re going through over the years and even in this campaign, but I want you to know I am focused on one thing: you,” she told the pumped-up crowd of about 900 people who packed the nightclub to see her speak. “There’s a lot of noise and distraction, but it really comes down to what kind of future you want.”

Hundreds of people waited outside the venue, listening to her words as they were piped on loudspeakers.

“We’re not going to be knocked off course,” Clinton promised them.

Hillary Clinton takes the stage to speak at a rally and concert in Wilton Manors, Fla., Oct. 30, 2016.

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Hillary Clinton takes the stage to speak at a rally in Wilton Manors, Fla., Oct. 30, 2016. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

As Clinton reassured her supporters over the weekend, her top campaign officials and her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, fanned out on Sunday shows to condemn Comey for his Friday letter to Congress announcing that investigators would look into new emails that could relate to his earlier investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server. Clinton’s campaign questioned the FBI director’s judgment and motivation, saying he owes it to the public to release more information.

“Why would you release information that is so incomplete when you haven’t even seen the material yourself?” Kaine asked. Clinton campaign chair John Podesta stopped short of calling Comey’s motivations political when asked by reporters Saturday, but said Comey owed the American people an “explanation” for his letter.

A Clinton campaign official told reporters that Clinton took the Comey news “like a champ” on Friday and had always suspected there’d be another twist before Election Day. Her campaign manager, Robby Mook, told reporters Saturday that the news had only increased “momentum” among her volunteers.

But the offensive against Comey and the hectic pace of campaigning suggest that the Clinton campaign is concerned that the news could boost the Trump campaign’s strategy of depressing Democratic turnout. Clinton also traveled without her longtime aide Huma Abedin, whose estranged husband is reportedly at the center of the FBI probe that led to Comey’s letter.

Clinton explicitly addressed the Comey news only once during her many stops in Florida: at a canvass kickoff event in Daytona Beach on Saturday. “It is pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election,” she said, as her supporters loudly booed Comey. “In fact, it is not just strange. It is unprecedented and deeply troubling.”

At a Sunday stop in Fort Lauderdale at New Mount Olive Baptist Church, an African-American church, Clinton spoke more broadly on the themes of suffering and endurance — potentially an oblique reference to the FBI announcement.

“Everyone — everyone — is knocked down in life,” she said. “As my mom taught me and showed me, what matters is whether you get back up.”

She turned to the Bible. “Scripture tells us to rejoice in our suffering knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope,” she said.

At a concert in Miami on Saturday night with Lopez and the singer’s ex-husband Marc Anthony, Clinton promised the crowd of thousands she would not be thrown off course.

“No matter what they throw at us, we don’t back down — not now, not ever,” she said.

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