Biden seeks to beat Trump by winning Florida

Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Biden clarifies comments comparing African American and Latino communities Kanye West may have missed deadline to get on Wisconsin ballot by minutes: report MORE is making a big play for Florida, putting President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE on defense in his own backyard in a must-win state for the White House.

Trump won the perennial swing state in 2016 over Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump touts economic agenda in battleground Ohio The Memo: Campaigns gird for rush of early voting Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat MORE by a little more than 100,000 votes, but Biden’s campaign believes he can put it back in the Democratic column given the Obama-Biden ticket’s victories in 2008 and 2012.

Biden has consistently attacked Trump on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as cases have risen in Florida in recent days, sensing a key issue in the election could turn his way in the Sunshine State.

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He also slammed Trump this week on hurricane preparedness as the state braces for an active storm season.

“His failure to prepare our nation for this pandemic or take decisive action to curb its impact has opened the door to follow-on crises,” Biden wrote in a Miami Herald op-ed. “Our communities are now dangerously vulnerable to new outside shocks and natural disasters, like hurricanes.”

Underscoring how Florida is on Team Biden’s mind, the Democrat is considering a Floridian in Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsCuba spells trouble for Bass's VP hopes The 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence Davis: My recommendation for vice president on Biden ticket MORE (D) to be his running mate.

Florida political watchers say the coronavirus pandemic is giving Biden an opening on top of the advantages he already had in the state.

“There are two reasons that Biden is leading in the polls in Florida right now: He’s not Donald Trump and he’s not Hillary Clinton,” said Barry Edwards, a professor at the University of Central Florida’s School of Politics, Security and International Affairs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated Florida’s tourism-dependent economy, and people don’t think the president has managed the crisis very well,” he added.

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Trump knows how important Florida is to his reelection prospects, and the president is working to defend the bulwark.

The Republican National Committee last week moved much of the Republican National Convention to Jacksonville, Fla., where Trump will accept the party’s nomination in August.

The president is expected to repeatedly visit the state as he begins to hold campaign rallies again, starting this week in Oklahoma.

Trump’s campaign said they feel good about their standing in the state. Campaign officials say they have registered nearly 18,000 voters in Florida since 2019.

“We have been successfully engaging voters in Florida since 2015,” said Courtney Parella, deputy press secretary for Trump’s presidential campaign.

“Our campaign is working around the clock to ensure the President’s message is conveyed directly to voters in the Sunshine State, and the truth is, the Democrats couldn’t catch up, even if they wanted to,” Parella said. “Floridians trusted President Trump with their votes in 2016, and his incredible track record of success, especially as he delivers The Great American Comeback, will help secure a home state victory for him in the fall.”

Recent polls show Biden with a slight lead over Trump, who declared himself a resident of Florida last year.

A poll out last week by the Republican firm Cygnal showed the presumptive Democratic nominee ahead of the president 47 percent to 44 percent among likely voters.

Importantly for Biden, some polls show him leading among seniors.

A Quinnipiac poll out in late April showed that 52 percent of voters over 65 years old back Biden, while 42 percent support Trump.

“Seniors are fleeing from him. They blame him,” said Juan Peñalosa, the executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. “The seniors we speak to are afraid of contracting the virus. They feel as though they are prisoners in their own home and they are upset they can’t see their grandchildren.”

Biden’s Miami Herald op-ed was republished in Spanish in Diario Las Américas on Tuesday as the former vice president targeted Hispanic voters.

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A Biden spokesman in Florida said the campaign will “continue to expand our aggressive outreach to all of Florida’s diverse communities to turn out every single vote.”

Trump does have a base of support in Florida, and Edwards said Biden will need a strong grassroots campaign to mobilize Democratic voters.

“Biden supporters need to match the energy and visibility of Trump supporters on the ground in Florida,” Edwards said. “He needs to show energy and enthusiasm to shake the ‘Sleepy Joe’ label.”

Biden and state party officials say they’ve ramped up their grassroots and organizing efforts across the state — even in ruby-red areas. And they’ve increased their calls, texts and knocks on doors.

Last weekend, for example, Biden supporters organized a Riding with Biden caravan where hundreds of cars drove in a single-file line past Trump properties, including the Trump National Doral Miami resort. Passengers in the cars waved posters and Biden signs.

Peñalosa said the stakes in Florida are higher than ever.

“All you have to do is look at Trump’s investment here,” he said. “He moved here. Florida is the one state he can’t afford to lose.”