Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020

Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020

Democrats are looking to make inroads with Florida Latinos as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE prepares to launch an aggressive effort to court the state’s fastest-growing voter bloc.

Eager to avoid a repeat of 2018, when two Trump allies edged out Democrats in the state’s Senate and gubernatorial contests, Democrats are wading into Florida’s Hispanic communities earlier this time around, mobilizing dozens of organizers in the Sunshine State and fine tuning Spanish-language outreach.

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And on Friday, more than half a dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls gathered at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ (NALEO) annual conference in Miami, where they pitched themselves to Latino leaders in voter-heavy South Florida.

“For us, we have to seize opportunities like the one that several of our candidates did today,” said Christian Ulvert, a Democratic consultant who ran Spanish-language media for Andrew Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

“Part of it is, as a Democratic party, we can’t just be there in the fall every two years,” he added. “We need to be there everyday, 365 days a year.”

Speaking to Latino leaders and voters in Miami, eight presidential hopefuls weighed in broadly on immigration reform and the Trump administration’s proposal to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census, a controversial move that many Democrats have argued would lead to inaccurate population counts by deterring certain people, especially many Latinos, from responding.

But the conversations also went far beyond the issue of immigration, touching on health care, the economy and gun violence.

“It is policies like not just immigration reform,” Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D-Minn.) said. “It is making sure that we've got an increase in the minimum wage. It is making sure that we've got childcare available to people, that we have paid family leave, that we do something to make people understand that we need workers right now in our fields and in our hospitals and starting small businesses.”

Among the other candidates at the conference on Friday: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Biden allies: Warren is taking a bite out of his electability argument MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Biden allies: Warren is taking a bite out of his electability argument Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul MORE (I-Vt.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Poll: Biden leads Democratic field by 10 points in Florida CNN announces details for LGBTQ town hall MORE, Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate 5 takeaways from fiery Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.) and former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperLeft off debate stage, Bullock all-in on Iowa Yang says he would not run as a third-party candidate The Hill's Morning Report - Hurricane Dorian devastates the Bahamas, creeps along Florida coast MORE.

For Democrats, the outreach efforts in Florida come with a sense of urgency.

Even as Democrats scored a slew of wins nationally in the 2108 midterms, Florida’s longtime senator and elder statesman, Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonMedia and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 MORE, was ousted by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the state’s former Republican governor. And Gillum, the Democratic former mayor of Tallahassee, ultimately fell to Republican Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisTrump parts ways with key Florida adviser: report Death and destruction: A timeline of Hurricane Dorian How to take politics beyond charges of racism MORE in the gubernatorial race.

While both Nelson and Gillum won more than half of the Latino vote – about 54 percent each, according to exit polls – their margins fell short of other past candidates running statewide in Florida. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonQueer Marine veteran launches House bid after incumbent California Rep. Susan Davis announces retirement Poll: Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Florida Former immigration judge fined, temporarily banned from federal service for promoting Clinton policies MORE, for instance, won about 62 percent of Florida’s Latino vote in 2016. Former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMost voters say there is too much turnover in Trump administration Trump's 'soldier of fortune' foreign policy Warren picks up key endorsement from Iowa state treasurer MORE won 60 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, Scott took 45 percent of the Latino vote, outperforming Trump among those core voters by 10 points. DeSantis nearly tied Scott’s margin, winning 44 percent.

For Democrats, losses in Florida in 2018 prompted months of soul searching, as party leaders sought to identify where they had fallen short with Hispanic voters.

“We’re well aware that we lacked in Hispanic outreach in 2018 and we’re looking to improve that heavily,” Steve Simeonidis, the chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, said. “We’re well aware of the gains we need to make, which is why we’re starting early.”

Heading into 2020, Trump is poised to make Florida a central part of his campaign.

He launched his reelection bid at a rally in Orlando on Tuesday, and his campaign is planning to use the state as a testing ground for a national Hispanic outreach program. Vice President Pence is set to travel to Miami on Tuesday to launch that initiative, dubbed “Latinos for Trump.”

Republicans acknowledge that Trump is unlikely to win the Hispanic vote overall in Florida, a state he won in 2016 by little more than 1 point. But in a state where roughly one in six voters is Latino, even a marginal swing in Trump’s direction could have major repercussions for Democrats.

“The Trump campaign is not making any secret of what their strategy is – making Florida the end-all be-all for them,” Ulvert, the former Gillum adviser, said. “And they’re also making very clear that Hispanic voters are their path.”

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Last month, the Florida Democratic Party launched a Spanish-language radio show in Miami, with hopes of eventually expanding the program into Latino-heavy Orlando and Tampa.

At the same time, the Democratic National Committee has already deployed 90 members of its newly minted Organizing Corps to Florida, including more than 20 people in Miami-Dade County alone, many of whom are bilingual.

And next week, 20 of the 24 Democratic presidential candidates will flock to Miami for the first of the party’s primary debates.

The NALEO conference on Friday gave several Democratic presidential hopefuls not only a chance to introduce themselves to Latino voters and leaders, Ulvert said, but to scoop up valuable airtime on Spanish-language media, a particularly valuable tool in a state where television appearances often resonate more than small town hall events.

Among the top-tier Democratic candidates absent from the NALEO forum were Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (D-Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity CNN announces details for LGBTQ town hall MORE (D-N.J.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Biden allies: Warren is taking a bite out of his electability argument Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat MORE, the primary contest’s early frontrunner, all of whom were scheduled to travel to South Carolina for House Majority Whip Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Israel denies Omar and Tlaib entry after Trump tweet Democrats race across country to woo activists MORE’s (D-S.C) “World Famous Fish Fry” on Friday.

Also absent from the stage on Friday: Trump.

“For those that didn’t show up today, it’s a missed opportunity,” Ulvert said. “Not just to speak to a respected organization, but a missed opportunity to get the earned media that comes with it.