Biden looks to shore up Latino support in Florida

Joe Biden made his first trip to Florida as the Democratic nominee on Tuesday, with his campaign launching a late effort to shore up support among Latino voters with only 49 days to go before the election.

A Biden victory in Florida would effectively close off Trump’s likeliest path back to the White House in November.

But polls show Biden running behind Hillary Clinton’s 2016 support among Latinos, raising concerns among Democrats that Biden’s potential weakness with a key Democratic voting bloc could boost President Trump to a narrow victory in Florida, which has more Electoral College votes up for grabs than any other core battleground state.

Biden on Tuesday evening will attend a Hispanic Heritage Month event in Kissimmee, a central Florida city that is almost 60 percent Hispanic. In a state with the nation’s highest number of Puerto Ricans, the Biden campaign released a new plan to promote economic prosperity in the U.S. island territory.

Biden’s plan calls for massive investments in Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and economic development as well as significant financial relief for a territory that has long struggled under the weight of debt and strict austerity measures.

Javier Cuebas, the Florida coalitions director for the Biden campaign, touted the scale of the former vice president’s recovery proposal, boasting that “no president or presidential candidate has ever provided a plan as comprehensive.”

“President Trump has suggested that we sell or trade Puerto Rico and turn our backs on the island’s 3 million citizens,” said Julie Rodríguez, one of Biden’s deputy campaign managers.

The former vice president will sit for an interview with Noticias Telemundo on Tuesday night.

The Biden campaign has been staffing up with new Latino political operatives and organizers in Florida in recent weeks in addition to launching an advertising blitz aimed at Latinos in Florida and a half-dozen other battlegrounds.

Biden leads by only 1 point in Florida, according to the RealClearPolitics average. Trump won the state by 1 point in 2016.

The Trump campaign, meanwhile, has invested heavily in Spanish-language advertising in Florida and says it can win 40 percent of the Latino vote nationally, building on the president’s 28 percent showing in 2016.

The Trump campaign will be looking to run up the margins among Republican-leaning Cuban Americans, while Biden is expected to clean up among non-Cuban Hispanics in South Florida.

In a phone call with reporters, Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez (R), the child of Cuban immigrants, accused Biden of being an ally to socialist dictators in countries such as Cuba and Venezuela.

“These are brutal dictators that many in our families risked their lives to flee,” Nuñez said. “Joe Biden would make life easier for these evil dictators.”

She also accused Biden of paying attention to Latinos only because it is an election year.

“They take the Latino vote for granted time and time again, and people are starting to take notice,” Nuñez said. “There’s a reason Biden has come out of his basement and come to Florida to try and feign interest in the Hispanic community. He knows he’s neglected us. His campaign knows he’s neglected us. And we know it too.”

A Quinnipiac University poll of Florida released last week found Biden trailing Trump 43 percent to 45 percent among Hispanic voters. A survey from Latino outreach firm Equis Research found Biden leading by 16 points statewide, down from Clinton’s 2016 margin of 27 points.

Biden will almost certainly carry the Hispanic vote in Florida. But if Trump can chip away at the former vice president’s margins in places where Democrats typically win big, it could give him something of a buffer in other parts of the state where Biden is expected to be competitive.

That strategy is perhaps most clear in Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in the state and one that Democrats have carried in presidential and statewide elections for decades.

A recent poll from the firm Bendixen & Amandi International showed Biden and Trump virtually tied among Hispanic voters there, while Biden held a 17-point lead overall. While that may seem significant, it’s notably smaller than Hillary Clinton’s 30-point win there in 2016.

Biden’s visit to Kissimmee on Tuesday suggests that he’s closely eyeing a win in Central Florida, particularly the Greater Orlando region, which has seen a massive increase in its Puerto Rican population over the past two decades. Many of those voters tend to lean Democratic, and together with Cuban Americans, they make up more than half Florida’s Hispanic vote.

The Biden campaign did get some good polling news with Florida Latinos on Tuesday, with a new Monmouth University poll finding him leading Trump by 5 points overall. Biden leads Trump by 26 points among Florida Latinos, matching Clinton’s margins.

Monmouth pollster Patrick Murray said the growing number of young Latinos and Puerto Ricans in Florida is boosting Biden’s margins. But Murray said there is evidence that Trump may be performing better than expected among older Latino voters.

“Biden’s current lead among Latinos is similar to Clinton’s margin four years ago,” said Murray. “One difference, though, is how Florida’s Latino electorate has shifted since 2016. There has been an influx of residents from Puerto Rico and a growing number of young voters. These groups tend to be more Democratic, which actually suggests that Trump could be doing slightly better among older Latino voters than he did four years ago.”

In addition, new data from Latino Decisions found Biden with a 25-point lead among Latinos nationwide.

Biden has a 25-point lead over Trump on the economy among Latinos, an issue where Trump leads among voters overall. Biden leads by 40 points or more among Latinos on immigration reform, health care and the environment.

Twice as many Latinos say they’ve been contacted by Democrats about voting.

However, about one-third of Latinos said they’re unfamiliar with how to vote by mail in their states, raising concerns among Democrats that the coronavirus pandemic and mail-in voting push will dampen Latino turnout.

“It’s time to stop distracting ourselves with the notion that lack of enthusiasm is the top story for Latinos and the 2020 election. … Biden has a clear advantage over Trump when it comes to three key indicators for Latino voter turnout: the economy, critical issues and mobilization,” said Adrian Pantoja, senior analyst with Latino Decision. “The final key to the Latino vote, access to the polls, should now be at the top of Biden’s campaign strategy.”

Tags Cuba Donald Trump Florida Hillary Clinton Joe Biden latinos Puerto Rico

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