Later today Joe Biden will make his first campaign visit of the year to Florida. Opinion polls show a tight race against President Donald Trump amid signs of lagging support for Biden among the battleground state’s crucial Hispanic voters. Trump carried the state in 2016, and its vital 29 Electoral College votes, by just 1.2 percentage points.
Trevor Hunnicutt and John Whitesides report for Reuters that with less than 50 days until the election now, the Biden campaign is trying to overcome concerns about enthusiasm among Florida Latinos.
A recent NBC News/Marist poll showed the two White House contenders in a dead heat in Florida and Trump with a 4-point edge over Biden among the state’s Latinos – a group Hillary Clinton won by 27 percentage points in 2016, according to exit polls. Other polls have shown Biden leading among state Hispanics, but still trailing Clinton’s support.
“Clearly, there has been some hemorrhaging of Hispanic support going on, mainly Cuban Americans,” said Democratic state Senator Annette Taddeo, a Colombian American. “The Republicans have worked really, really hard, and they have been constantly present.”
The steady drumbeat of Republican attacks on Biden as a socialist has also taken a toll, Florida Democrats said. The Republican convention last month featured a Cuban-born Florida businessman, Maximo Alvarez, who compared Biden’s agenda to the promises of Fidel Castro’s Communist rule.
“We are seeing a massive disinformation campaign in Spanish aimed at our community calling Biden and Democrats socialists, and it is having an effect,” said Evelyn Perez-Verdia, a Colombian-American Democratic strategist in south Florida.
Florida, where Hispanics make up about 20% of the state electorate, is a linchpin in Trump’s re-election strategy. No Republican has won the presidency without Florida since Calvin Coolidge in 1924.
Ahead of events on Tuesday in Tampa and Kissimmee, two Florida cities with heavy Puerto Rican populations, Biden said: “I am going to work like the devil to make sure I turn every Latino and Hispanic vote.”
He will get some help from former Democratic primary rival Michael Bloomberg, who will spend $100 million on Biden’s behalf in Florida with a particular focus on Latino voters.
Polls show Biden running ahead of Clinton’s level of 2016 support among seniors in Florida, another crucial voting bloc, and among white voters, giving him plenty of pathways to reach a majority, Democrats said.