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Presidential candidates start arriving in Florida for debate week

Anthony Man, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Jay Inslee, who is making climate change the centerpiece of his presidential campaign, made the traditional pilgrimage Monday for candidates seeking to show their support for the environment in Florida: an airboat tour of the Everglades in western Broward County.

Inslee's visit -- the kind of appearance that produces stunning visual images -- is one of the myriad ways people in the crowded Democratic presidential field hope to capture snippets of news media attention and generate social media moments as they descend on South Florida for the first round of debates Wednesday and Thursday.

Besides hoping for that all-important social media attention or news coverage, the candidates are courting key constituencies in the region during debate week.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts will have a town hall meeting in Miami on Tuesday, the eve of the first presidential debate, in which she'll be center stage. Warren is running in third place, with 12% in the latest Real Clear Politics polling average of Democratic presidential candidates.

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas also will have town hall Tuesday in Miami sponsored by the big American Federation of Teachers union. O'Rourke, at sixth place with 4% in the polling average, is also on the Wednesday night stage. On Thursday O'Rourke will visit the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, the nation's biggest location for detaining immigrant children, to show his opposition to the Trump administration's policies on the treatment of child detainees.

Julian Castro, a former housing and urban development secretary and former mayor of San Antonio, is holding a question-and-answer session Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at a Miami hotel as he prepares for the debate Wednesday night. At about 1% in the polling average, he's bunched together with several other candidates.

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There is a notable exception: Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

He had scheduled two evening events Monday in Fort Lauderdale, one for "grassroots" supporters, another for high-dollar donors. Buttigieg's grassroots events are typically open for news media coverage, but a campaign spokeswoman said Monday that wouldn't be allowed in Fort Lauderdale.

Buttigieg's campaign has been dominated in recent days by controversy in his city over a white police officer killing a black resident. He's canceled some campaign appearances to tend to the situation in South Bend. Tied for fourth place at 7%, Buttigieg will be on the debate stage Thursday.

Even President Donald Trump's re-election campaign hopes to attract some attention for itself. The Trump campaign is dispatching Vice President Mike Pence to Miami on Tuesday to help launch Latinos for Trump.

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