To passers-by at the political rally on the green courtyard outside the Fairwinds Alumni building at UCF, where a U.S. Senate debate was to happen later that night, both U.S. Senate candidates must have sounded bad.
Patrick Murphy‘s detractors called him privileged and said his record was among the least effective in Congress, so how could he be trusted with a higher seat? Marco Rubio‘s detractors said it was time for him to go due to his poor attendance record and opposition to immigration and women’s health care issues like abortion.
In their chanting and shouting, neither group focused on the candidate they were supporting so much as the other candidate’s faults.
But whoever they were supporting, the mood on the green was electric. The sun was on everyone’s faces, and sweat rolled down in their eyes, and they kept on rallying. Those supporting both candidates stormed the green and moved like a mob focusing around the presence of TV cameras.
They didn’t segregate based on candidate allegiance, moving in a frenzied ball of arms, legs and cardboard campaign posters.
Their chants and cries in protest of the opposing candidate rang out and crossed in midair: “Privileged Patrick!” some shouted. “Rubio’s got to go!” others countered with equal force.
Supporters of both candidates eventually cut out the middleman of the news cameras and turned and shouted at one another rather than at the cameras or passing vehicles. Shouted arguments about Hillary Clinton‘s Benghazi controversy and Donald Trump‘s variety of high-profile controversies could be heard dying in midair, never to be finished.
Several UCF students supporting Rubio took a theatrical approach, arriving wearing sailor’s caps, brandishing giant silver spoons with which to proclaim that Murphy has had everything handed to him on one. One group of students paraded the grounds in a giant cardboard imitation of a boat. Branded on its side were the words S.S. PRIVILEGED PATRICK.
Many of the students flaunting such colorful items of protest, when asked why they had come to the rally, gave scant answers, often with wry, joking grins, almost as if they were repeating internet memes gleaned from Facebook. “I’m here because Patrick is privileged,” one student who declined to be named said.
Another simply said: “Because the campaign told me to come out here,” and walked away without elaborating more.
Beyond them, there were others happy to be there, motivated by real political issues. Community member Susan Travis said she agreed with Rubio’s policies and disagreed with Murphy, from his association with Hillary Clinton on down.
“I’m concerned with Obamacare,” she said. “I’m concerned with illegal aliens, and open borders. Everything Rubio says is in line with how I feel.”
Brooke Renney described herself as a Christian conservative and a member of the LGBT community and said she supported Rubio for his emphasis on national security and his response after the Pulse nightclub shooting in June.
“He really stepped up for the gay community,” she said. “I watched his speech, and I’ve never been more proud of a representative in my life. Even though he thinks differently than us, he can still show respect. It moved me to tears.”
Peter True, working with the Murphy campaign, said he perceived Rubio as self-involved.
“He’s only ever done what’s important for him,” True said. “Set your clock to any time and Rubio is only doing what was best for himself. Patrick Murphy will do his job for six whole years. Rubio will start running for president the second he gets back into office.”
Ruth Moreno with I America Action drove three and a half hours to be at UCF outside the debate. She spoke in an impassioned way on her disgust for Rubio — for his support of Trump, who she called a bigot who bragged about sexual assault with “no respect for American values.” Rubio’s support told Morello all she needed to know about him. She added that she was disheartened and disappointed by the support for Rubio from fellow women of color like herself.
She also looked with some disdain on the UCF students’ jeering and raucous “Privileged Patrick” chants.
“They say ‘Privileged Patrick,’ but so many of them have the same benefits — they’re white and male,” she said. “But can any of them even answer what Marco stands for?”
All this, and the debate hadn’t yet started.