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Trump, Clinton Campaigns Rapidly Open Field Offices In Florida


The 2016 election could be decided in Florida. Donald Trump has almost no path to victory without the state's 29 electoral votes. Both he and Hillary Clinton are opening up new campaign offices across the state. Renata Sago brings us this report from member station WMFE.

COMPUTER-GENERATED VOICE: Your call has been forwarded to an automatic voice message system.

RENATA SAGO, BYLINE: Hands clutch cell phones, and eyes scan stapled lists of names at the dining room table in this Orlando home.

KRESHA BASWELL: My name is Kresha, and I'm working for the Hillary Clinton campaign. How are you? Are you going to vote for Hillary Clinton? Oh, I'm not Hillary (laughter).

SAGO: The campaign says volunteers like Kresha Baswell will have to make 100 calls to get one person to promise to vote for Clinton. Their target today - 500 calls.

BASWELL: We have a list here - everybody's name and their address and everything. So then we go down, and we call them to see if we can get them to volunteer.

SAGO: Thousands of calls are taking place every day and phone banks like these across Florida. You'll hear Spanish and broken Spanish to target the state's growing Latino community. You might hear some Creole for the Haitian community, but the common language here is Clinton. That's what got Baswell, a longtime Republican, making calls.

BASWELL: The Republican Party has really let me down. I decided, yes, I'm going to do whatever it takes to get Hillary into office.

SAGO: The Clinton campaign has long been on the ground in Florida but is now expanding rapidly and plans to have more than 30 offices by the end of the week. They'll focus on registration drives in the street, flash mob phone banking, door knocking and yard signs - lots of them.

BASWELL: I had one in my car. I have one in the window at my house and everything like that. I haven't even really seen any Donald Trump signs in anybody's yards or anything.

SAGO: Across town, Rae Capen begs to differ.

RAE CAPEN: I've got the seniors for Trump. I've got Hispanics for Trump, and we've got Americans for Trump signs here in the office. Basically we've got rally signs.

SAGO: It's been busy for the 85-year-old who's volunteered for the local Republican Party for the last two decades.

CAPEN: I've had calls from all over the country. I've had calls from the islands. I have had more calls for the Trump campaign than I can recall ever getting at any time.

SAGO: Since becoming the GOP's presidential nominee, rallies have anchored Trump's campaign, and his grassroots presence has been relatively slender until now.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I think it's that's great idea. We can get...


SAGO: This is a strategy meeting at a Trump campaign office in Winter Park. It's 1 of 3 brand new offices run jointly by the campaign and state party in Central Florida's I-4 corridor.


SAGO: Beverly Burgess sits in a room with other volunteers, many white, some Latino and Asian and a few blacks like her. She's registered 500 people to vote so far. She wants to get more black voters onboard with Trump.

BEVERLY BURGESS: I'm going to the churches, the parking lot, the shopping centers. I'm knocking on doors. I'm doing it all.

SAGO: Until now she's been a Democrat, but she's frustrated that the party has not fixed many local problems.

BURGESS: The Democrats want you to vote, vote, vote. If you want my vote, that's a 16-ounce steak, and I want some potatoes and salad with that. I'm coming across people that actually have started thinking, and they feel the same way.

SAGO: In hopes of convincing more people like Burgess before November, the Trump campaign is opening 25 field offices across Florida in the next week. Press Secretary Healy Baumgardner says it's been an unconventional yet effective marriage between Trump supporters and the GOP.

HEALY BAUMGARDNER: We are engaging voters at every turn, having very aggressive guerrilla-like tactics where we're out actually talking to the voters on the grassroots level. So our ground game is much more robust than people think.

SAGO: The challenge for both campaigns in this must-win state is to mobilize every voter they can by Election Day, especially untraditional ones. For NPR News, I'm Renata Sago in Orlando. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renata joined the WVIK News team in March 2014, as the Amy Helpenstell Foundation Fellow. She anchors during Morning Edition and All Things Considered, produces features, and reports on everything from same-sex marriage legislation to unemployment in the Quad Cities.