From Oregon to Florida: 10 journalists on the moment that defined their election

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Members of the press from Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia, Oregon, Wisconsin highlight key events from the campaign trail

Patricia Mazzei, Florida: Voters are courted no longer in Spanish

Patricia

The thing about covering Miami politics is you forget how unusual the city is from the rest of the country.

I thought nothing of Cuban-American US senator Marco Rubio translating his own news conferences into Spanish in February 2015, two months before he started running for president. It seemed normal for former Florida governor Jeb Bush, campaigning in September 2015, to blast Donald Trump most harshly en espaol, the language Bush speaks at home with his Mexican-born wife.

Then came Trumps response: he opined that Bush should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States.

It was but a passing prod in the GOP primary, hardly a blip in the great arc of a tumultuous campaign. Yet the moment stayed with me.

After losing in 2012, establishment Republicans concluded the future GOP needed to look and sound different: browner, and perhaps with a hint of an accent. In short, more like Miami. More than half the residents of Miami-Dade County are foreign-born. Two-thirds are Hispanic.

But when Miami offered the 2016 presidential race two of its biggest political stars, they wilted under the glare of Trump Bush slowly, and Rubio all at once.

Republicans picked a nominee who clearly loves living and doing business in large, diverse cities. Trumps Miami-area golf resort brings him more annual revenue than any other of his properties. He recently convened reporters there to watch him thank his employees most of them Hispanic. Assembled on the golf course, they eagerly took turns at the microphone, telling Trump how much they love working for him.

He thanked him profusely in English.

Patricia Mazzei is a political writer for the Miami Herald – @PatriciaMazzei

Jim Morin, Florida: Where we once shared a worldview, now an unsettling uncertainty takes its place

Jim

I was speaking to a friendly gathering of art lovers at a showing of my 2016 election cartoons at a Miami gallery. I told them the story of getting ready earlier that evening. I had chosen a nice shirt, with maroon and dark blue pinstripes, a gift long ago from my wife that I was wearing for the first time. I hadnt read the shirts label until just then: Donald Trump Collection. The audience laughed. I said I knew this shirt was a legitimate Trump product because another, smaller label read, made in Indonesia. A louder and longer laugh.

I felt I could safely make these comments because my fans pretty much know my political leanings and to varying degrees agree with them. However, this time I noticed a few blank faces in the audience. This was unusual. This was not normal.

The lines between Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative have become blurred. A longtime friend and colleague I greatly respect and whose common sense I thought mirrored my own writes a bitter, angry screed on social media about Hillary Clinton and swears allegiance to Donald Trump. Her friends and admirers were aghast. How could this have happened? Mutual friends of this person asked, has my friend taken ill? Is our friend growing senile? Is our friend suffering from depression? Is our friend suddenly deaf to reason?

A pretty solid Democrat in the past, the rhetoric coming from my colleague was shocking and baffling. Where we once shared a worldview, now an unsettling uncertainty takes its place. We are left looking for answers. But there are no easy answers here when auditoriums are packed with self-described patriotic Americans backing a candidate who sees in Vladimir Putin an authoritarian dictator a stronger leader than our own.

Jim Morin has been a cartoonist with the Miami Herald since 1978. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes. @morintoon

Chrissie Thompson, Ohio: After 240 years, a woman is ready

Chrissie

Its time for a woman to be president, person after person told me.

I was covering Hillary Clintons first visit to Ohio after securing the nomination, roaming around a crowded schoolyard and wishing I had remembered sunscreen. And I kept hearing the same thing.

At the end of the day, I realized: every person who had said that to me was a man.

Its incredibly inspiring, said Hugh Crowell, an environmental scientist. Its about time.

I agree, said his son, Seth, a college student. We need it.

To be honest, I hadnt known the gender inequity in our nations highest office bothered so many men.

I mean, it bothers me. But Im a woman, one who has worked in areas of journalism dominated by men. Ive seen the benefits of increased gender diversity. I didnt realize so many men recognized those benefits and want to see our country live out its promise as the land where anyone can achieve.

I have seen a lot in 70 years. This is the most important event that Im looking forward to, said Umbisa Gusa, who has dual citizenship in Kenya and the US. After 240 years, a woman is ready. We need the new generation of Americans to believe you can make it.

Say what you want about Ohio: were old-school as much as were innovative and open-minded. And for what its worth, were divided on Clinton specifically. She trails Donald Trump by a few percentage points in most recent polls.

So maybe it will not, or should not, be this woman. But under that blistering early August sun, I realized for the first time: my state is ready.

Chrissie Thompson, State capital bureau chief, The Cincinnati Enquirer
@CThompsonENQ

Charles Ashby, Colorado: One Trump supporter told a colleague that he should be dragged out in the street and shot

Charles

In the last several presidential election cycles, Colorado has been a clear swing state. For the first time since the early 1980s, Democrats outnumber Republicans in voter registrations, albeit slightly. Early voting also shows that, for the first time in recent memory, thousands more Democrats have been casting more ballots than Republicans.

Whats interesting about this years presidential contest is that the nation is seeing what appears to be the same slow implosion of the Republican party that weve been experiencing in Colorado for the past decade.

In 2010, a political unknown who had never run for or held office in the state before won the GOP nomination for governor, mostly thanks to Tea Party voters. A well-known but extremist Republican, former congressman, Tom Tancredo, threatened to launch a third-party bid if the nominee didnt drop out which he didnt do. Tancredo split the party and giving us our current governor, Democrat John Hickenlooper.

Among GOP voters here, Donald Trump wasnt their first choice. For them, Colorado was a Ted Cruz state, and its delegates to the Republican national convention in Cleveland held strong to that choice.

Whats most interesting, and a little scary, are the conservative extremists weve long had here, and how much more vocal and threatening theyre becoming. Theyve complained of rigged elections, dishonest media and even made not-so-veiled threats of armed insurrection should Trump not win. Wait till 9 November, one caller said.

We saw that up close and personal just last month when Trump came to town. As hes done at other events, Trump pointed to the media and called us liars. Many in the crowd flipped us off, but some actually threatened us with bodily harm. One Trump supporter told a colleague that he should be dragged out in the street and shot. Ive experienced ugliness at political rallies before, but nothing like that.

Whats unknown at this point is what our unaffiliated voters will do. Since they make up about one-third of the electorate, they will decide which direction Colorado will go.

Charles Ashby has covered Colorado politics for more than 20 years, most recently for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Elizabeth Crisp, Louisiana: I felt like I had witnessed first-hand the intense support among his backers and their sincerity

Elizabeth

Louisiana can sometimes be overlooked in presidential campaigns. The state doesnt have a lot of votes to give out not in primary contests nor the final showdown and its reliably Republican.

This year was a bit different, particularly in the GOP primary. Nearly all of the Republicans who remained in the race held events in Louisiana ahead of the primary here.
Political gatherings in Louisiana always veer toward the more entertaining side. We have a lot of festivals, celebrating everything from strawberries to crawfish to rice, and our politicians tend to be pretty colorful.
But Ive never experienced anything as surreal as Donald Trumps massive campaign rally in Baton Rouge in February.

I watched Trump in the GOP debates and saw enough footage from his other rallies to know that it wouldnt be like a normal political event when he arrived here.

More than 10,000 people packed into the downtown event center, as lines of even more people stretched down the street. Many people were dressed in red, white and blue costumes or shirts and hats adorned with Trumps Make America Great Again slogan. A toddler wearing an American flag bowtie and whose blond hair was styled into a mohawk was passed through the crowd to Trump. The Republican presidential nominee then scribbled his autograph on the boys hand with a marker.

I spoke to several attendees who told me that they had never been interested in politics before Trumps campaign. Some waited hours just to get into the rally. They rushed campaign workers who were handing out simple Trump stickers.

During the rally, the atmosphere felt more like a rock concert than a political event.
At that point in the race, a lot of people still were dismissive of Trumps chances of securing the GOP nomination, but I felt like I had witnessed first-hand the intense support among his backers and their sincerity. It really shaped my outlook and understanding of what was happening in the presidential election, but it also gave me insight into this population of Louisiana voters who felt like they had been left out of the political process here previously.

Some of them couldnt tell me who their state representative was, but they felt that they had a place in politics through Trump.

All polls to date have shown that Trump is on track to easily win Louisiana on election day.

Elizabeth Crisp is Capitol reporter, South Louisiana Advocate @elizabethcrisp

Sandra Fish, New Mexico: No matter who wins, we win

Sandra

One Saturday in early October, I dropped in on the Luna County Republican office in Deming. This is a county with about 25,000 people and a 10% unemployment rate.

A group of mostly older folks were watching the movie AmeriGeddon about martial law and a UN takeover of the United States.

The county chairwoman and her vice-chairman were enthusiastic about the Trump ticket. Theyre rural people, longing for change.

The race for an open seat in the state house was less divisive in many ways. The Democratic candidate, Candie Sweetser, is married to a Republican running for countywide office.

No matter who wins, we win, said Russ Howell, the GOP chairwoman in Luna County. Theyre both very able conservatives.

But those Republicans and others in the community did resent the interference of a state-level Super Pac in a Republican primary earlier in the year. The candidate opposed by that Pac, which is affiliated with the GOP governor, Susana Martinez, lost by just 16 votes after a series of nasty mailers the weekend before the primary.

That Super Pac is continuing its involvement attacking the Democrat in the race, and its a strategy Republican candidate Vicki Chavez isnt thrilled with either. These down-ballot races are important in small communities like Deming, and ideological differences arent all that significant here.

This community will come together to support the candidate who wins that house seat. But will the nation and our national representatives be able to do the same, no matter who is elected president?

Sandra Fish is a journalist for New Mexico in-depth @fishnette

Aman Batheja, Texas: Glenn Becks turmoil as Cruz turns for Trump

Aman

In a TV studio built to look like the Oval Office, Glenn Beck paced anxiously. Ted Cruz was on the phone defending his recent behavior. The more Cruz spoke, the more Beck looked like a man whose heart was breaking.

Days earlier, Cruz had announced he was supporting Donald Trump for president. Two months before that, the US senator from Texas had very publicly refused to endorse Trump during the Republican national convention.

From the Dallas studio where he records a show popular with Texas conservative grassroots, Beck was having trouble squaring his months of cheerleading for Cruz with his intense dislike for Trump.

To understand why this was such an illuminating moment in this Shonda Rhimes fever dream of an election cycle, you have to consider Cruzs place in the political firmament. In four short years, Cruz hadnt just rocketed into the role of most influential politician in Texas, though he was that. He had also branded himself as a rare man with backbone in an endless sea of settlers.

Since ending his own presidential bid, Cruzs Hamlet-like approach to dealing with Trump had become a Rorschach test for the Texas Republican base. Cruz was either a man of integrity, a sore loser, a narcissist or a combination of the three.

On Becks show, Cruz refused to say Trump was fit to be president but defended endorsing him by stressing the importance of supreme court appointments. The man who had successfully painted so many political debates as black-and-white now appeared to be drowning in nuance.

After Cruz hung up, Becks assessment mirrored the inner turmoil that may mess with the Texas GOP base for years.

For the very first time I heard Ted Cruz calculate. And when that happened, the whole thing fell apart for me, Beck said. Its my fault for believing men can actually be George Washington.

Aman Batheja is an editor at the Texas Tribune. @amanbatheja

Jeff E Schapiro, Virginia: Virginia, exciting this year? Think again

Jeff

One would would think that Virginia, a purple state trending blue, would be an exciting place this year, especially with Tim Kaine, its former governor-turned-US senator, on the ballot as the Democratic nominee for vice-president.

Think again.

Having locked down early for Hillary Clinton and Kaine polls have consistently shown the Democrats leading Donald Trump and Mike Pence Virginia is, as it used to be in presidential elections: quiet and predictable.

Until Barack Obama carried the state in 2008 and again in 2012, Virginia had been reliably Republican. From 1968 until 2004, the state tipped to the GOP, requiring little money, effort or time by the partys national candidates. Democrats rarely bothered to contest Virginia.

But rapid population growth and demographic diversification, including an Asian and Hispanic presence that was virtually unheard of two decades ago, have made Virginia fertile ground for Democrats, particularly in high-turnout presidential elections.

That, combined with distaste for Trump, especially in the vote-rich, northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC, firmed up the state for Clinton even before her nomination in July. With Virginia, at least for this cycle, anything but the battleground it was four or eight years ago, Clinton has been free to steer money and staff to other swing states.

Clinton was last in Virginia in June. Kaine has made a handful of trips to his hometown, Richmond, for among other reasons to collect his dry-cleaning.

Also, local television airwaves have been blissfully free of Clinton commercials. Indeed, she did not place a single advertisement with a Virginia station in September and October. Trumps buys in Virginia have been modest, largely a reflection of his fundraising disadvantage.

But all good things must come to an end.

Clintons final dash to the election marred by the renewed email scandal, her strategists decided she had no choice but to advertise in Virginia. Barely a week before balloting, her campaign disclosed a small buy, just enough to reassure the Democratic grassroots and compel a lot of other voters to change the channel.

Jeff E Schapiro, politics columnist, Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch
@rtdschapiro

Jeff Mapes, Oregon: A republican nominee for governor forced to apologise

Jeff

Oregon is one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country. Republicans havent won a presidential race since 1984 or a gubernatorial contest since 1982.

Still, the state is not immune to anger at the political establishment. Governor John Kitzhaber resigned last year in an alleged influence-peddling scandal. The states Obamacare health exchange failed to work, wasting $305m. The states public pension system is $22bn in the hole.

Which brings us to Bud Pierce, a successful cancer doctor and Republican nominee for governor. The first-time candidate has a storm-the-barricades story, saying state government is dysfunctional and that incumbent Kate Brown is mired in Democratic corruption.

In a debate against Brown on 30 September, on the subject of domestic abuse, Pierce said: A woman that has a great education and training and a great job is not susceptible to this kind of abuse by men, women or anyone.

That earned Pierce plenty of bad publicity. It didnt help him that at the same debate, Brown revealed that she too had once been a victim of domestic abuse.

His campaign quickly issued one of those typical statements apologizing to anyone who may have taken my statements the wrong way.

Pierce awoke at 3am one day the next week and decided he needed a higher level of contrition than a Trump-like Twitter storm. I apologize for this ignorant and potentially dangerous statement, he said in a video message.

It all seemed lost on voters. Polls showed him running about 10 points behind Brown, with large numbers of voters saying they didnt know anything about Pierce.

It was all a reminder to me of what a narrow path Republicans have to winning in this blue corner of the Northwest. But at least Pierce can count himself as one male candidate this year who can show genuine remorse about something that affects so many women.

Jeff Mapes is senior political reporter, Oregon Public Broadcasting
@Jeffmapes

Jessie Opoien, Wisconsin: Ryan booed on home turf

Jessica

October 9 was a crisp, clear day in Elkhorn, Wisconsin a small town in the heart of House speaker Paul Ryans district. It was the day of the 1st Congressional District Republican Party of Wisconsin Fall Fest, and it was to be Ryans first time campaigning with his partys presidential nominee.

What was first billed as a unity event for a fractured party instead became a full display of the fissures within the GOP. Donald Trumps invitation to the festival an event designed to showcase Wisconsin Republicans up and down the ballot was rescinded the night before, when a 2005 recording surfaced of the nominee making sexually predatory comments about women.

As the Republican leaders addressed the crowd, most attempted a delicate dance around the issue. Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Sentor Ron Johnson, US Representative Jim Sensenbrenner and state assembly speaker Robin Vos all encouraged voters to support Republicans on the ballot without once mentioning Trump by name.

A pronounced portion of the crowd was audibly displeased by the party leaders apparent unwillingness to embrace Trump. They were upset, not by Trumps lewd comments, but that they would not hear from the candidate they came to see. And they booed.

Ryan, a party idol among Republicans in his home state, was not treated as such on October 9. It became clear in Elkhorn that the Trump-induced rifts within the GOP had grown deep and wide enough to shake Ryans standing in his own home.

Jessie Opoien is a politics reporter for @CapTimes @jessieopie

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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