With the muted chants of a few protesters in the background — "Lock her up, lock her up" — at least 10,000 Hillary Clinton supporters packed into a field near Arizona State University's Sun Devil Fitness Complex Wednesday night and held a dance party while they waited for the candidate to arrive.
Unlike her competitor, Clinton's not known for holding huge rallies — the last time she came to Arizona back in March, she spoke to a few hundred people in a small high school gymnasium — but Wednesday night felt more like an outdoor concert than a political rally. With less than a week until Election Day, the Clinton campaign clearly isn't holding anything back. The venue was huge, the stage setup was colorful, the lights were big and bright, and a professional DJ was on hand to work up the crowd and get folks dancing.
The line to get in began forming at 1 p.m., and an hour later it was long enough to loop around the field twice. By 3 p.m. it was snaking around the block and out to Apache Boulevard. The first attendees were admitted at about 3:30, and from that point on, the DJ blasted music — a playlist that included hits from Journey, Rihanna, and K'naan — and encouraged the crowd to dance.
At a little after 8 p.m., Clinton was introduced by the immigrant parents of a soldier who died in Iraq and his schoolteacher, and came onstage wearing her photogenic mouth-wide-open smile.
"As the pundits like to say, Arizona is in play for the first time in years!" she yelled, to cheers. "Arizona has only voted for a Democrat for president once since 1948 … For the first time since then, we have a real chance to turn this state blue again."
The candidate barely got the last line out before being drowned out by the deafening applause.
"So Arizona, you can make a very big difference," she added. "This is one of those make-or-break moments for the country."
Clinton, who is often said to be a little robotic on the stump, delivered a fiery speech. Her voice was hoarse — this was her fifth event of the day, a pool reporter traveling with her campaign told New Times — but she spoke for more than 45 minutes, running through a laundry list of all the things she has accomplished over the years, and contrasting it with all of Trump's scandals.
"Imagine it's January 20, 2017… Imagine he is taking the oath of office, and then imagine what it will be like to have him in the Oval Office," she said. "Imagine a president who demeans women, mocks the disabled, insults Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims, POWs, and who pits people against each other instead of pulling us together."
The crowd booed.
"You know, the fact is, we really don't have to imagine it, because everything he has said in his life and in his campaign is a pretty good indicator of what's to come," she went on. "It shouldn't surprise you that he says these things because his top adviser on immigration is Sheriff Joe Arpaio."
Clinton ripped into Arpaio multiple times throughout the evening — the crowd ate it up each and every time — and made a point of championing Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, who is running to unseat Senator John McCain.
The rally was billed as a get-out-the-vote event, and indeed it was, but being held at ASU, it was also an impassioned last-minute plea to young people to remain optimistic and engaged in the political process.
"There is so much to admire about ASU … You have a student body that reflects the diversity and skills of our country," Clinton said. "You are proof that the American dream is alive and big enough for everyone."
She promised she would stand up for "human rights, women's rights, LGBT rights" and said she wasn't interested in perpetuating congressional gridlock. She promised to fight climate change and to invest in clean energy and job training. And echoing Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, she promised to make the economy fairer.
"I will get up every day in the White House and work my heart out for you," she said.
The significance of campaigning in Arizona mere days before the election was certainly not lost on Clinton or any of the surrogates who introduced her; Arizona could turn blue, they all proclaimed. (The latest political polls show Trump leading by a few points in the state.)
The optimism wasn't limited to the speakers, though, as New Times heard again and again from attendees that while the election will be close, we should all be prepared to wake up next Wednesday morning to find that Arizona voted for Clinton.
"It's going to go blue; it's gotta go blue," said Betty Pimentel, who's from Florence.
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Asked if she has friends who are Trump supporters and whether that has strained their friendship, the woman standing next to her interjected, "I talk to my neighbor, I know she's a Trump fan.
"I ask why, and she says, 'I want change,'" she continued. "[But] I believe Hillary is more for the people than Trump could ever imagine. Trump is only for Trump."
It's no secret that the desire for change is one of this election's biggest themes, and one of the loudest waves of applause last night came when Clinton addressed it head-on.
"Someone people say, 'Well, they want change,'" she said, referring to Trump's supporters. "Let me tell you this: Change is certain. We will have change. The question is, 'What kind of change will we have?'"