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The Race For The White House Is Moving At Breakneck Speed - But It's Far From Won

10/10/2016 11:09
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

BBC Radio 5 live's Anna Foster reports overnight from the States, having watched the US Presidential Debate

Hillary Clinton smiled broadly as she stood on Donald Trump's chest with both feet, pinning him flat to the ground. Eyes wide, he grimaced up from the cold tiled floor. No, not a scene from the second Presidential debate, this was one of the many decorations adorning Democratic HQ in the southern border town of El Paso, Texas. The life-sized cut-out of Hillary took pride of place right next to the big screen, watching over the latest round in an increasingly hostile battle to secure the most powerful job on the planet.

clinton

Excited activists festooned with badges and sequins tucked into slices of red, white and blue iced cake with 'Madam President' piped across the top. Men juggled slogan-printed t-shirts with bottles of beer and hats covered in badges. And they were loud. Unsurprisingly, in this place Clinton got the cheers, Trump the heckles. They hated his belated efforts to reach out to Hispanic voters, and booed lustily as he criticised America's southern border as a pathway for drug smugglers and illegal immigrants.

That particular tactic is one that's served Trump well during the campaign. Liberal voters are astounded when he makes an offensively sweeping statement, like deriding Mexicans as rapists. In a border town like El Paso, they hear those words and hate him even more. But that message isn't designed for them. It's carefully crafted to resonate in Washington, Indianapolis, Des Moines - places far-away from the border who regard it as a dangerous place to fear. I sat down with El Paso congressman Beto O'Rourke in a leafy square in the centre of town. "Immigrants commit crimes at a far lower level than US citizens who were born in this country" he says. "You're looking for that bogeyman, that person to blame, and Mexico has become that convenient whipping-boy upon which to project all these anxieties and fears".

Texas may be a solidly Republican, Trump-supporting State, but El Paso bucks that trend. Relaxed about immigration, almost a quarter of the population here was born outside the United States. Every year there are 32million crossings between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, two cities separated by just metres, but symbolically by so much more - an international border. Walking from Texas into Mexico, over the high arching bridge that spans the high wire fences below, is a simple experience. There are no checks, nor papers to present. It takes just minutes. The opposite journey is a different story though. To enter the US, travellers go through the full border experience, passports presented and checked, bags screened, keen-eyed customs officers wait to apprehend smugglers. After 9/11, border security snapped into shape. Jorge, a taxi driver, described how he used to pick up immigrants who'd arrived in the US illegally, bloodying their hands scrambling over high metal fences or dragging their tired bodies through the sewers, popping up soaked and exhausted through manholes in the middle of the road. Eventually the manholes were permanently sealed with a metal cap to stop them doing it. But Jorge is convinced Donald Trump's wall wouldn't help. "You could build a hundred foot wall and people are gonna get by. Always. They'll find a way".

Right now, the Presidential Election race is moving at breakneck speed. Relations between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had already soured so much they didn't shake hands at the start of the debate, preferring instead to smile flintily at each other before parting to wave at their massed rows of family and supporters. But neither is yet out of the race. I spoke to a proudly Hispanic women who told me she was backing Trump 100% 'because he's a leader'. 'America's a business and it needs a businessman to make it work', agreed a young, white, American man. Despite the release of decade-old tapes where Trump talks about demeaning and abusing women, he cut a strong figure on the debate stage - lapping up the cheers from his supporters, cutting across Clinton, attacking her husband Bill, ridiculing her for a record of failure on Iraq, Syria, Libya. When he says he wants to 'Make America Great Again' a big slice of the US listens. When he threatens to put her in jail, they see a strong character ready to lead. The race to the White House is still far from won.

Anna will be reporting live from the US on BBC Radio 5 live Drive today 4-7pm

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