Democrat Joe Biden courted Hispanic voters on Tuesday (September 15) on his first campaign visit of the year to Florida, saying President Donald Trump had let them down with his divisive immigration policies and a disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Democratic presidential nominee, trying to overcome what opinion polls show is lagging support among the battleground state’s Hispanics, said Trump had proven he could not be a leader for all Americans.
With less than 50 days until the Nov. 3 election, Biden is trying to overcome concerns about him among Florida Latinos amid a disinformation campaign that has painted the moderate Democratic presidential nominee as a socialist. Polls show Biden with a slight lead or essentially tied with Trump in the state, although the former vice president lags behind Democrat Hillary Clinton’s level of support with Florida Hispanics in 2016. Trump won Florida over Clinton by just 1.2 percentage points, which helped propel him to the White House.
Trump’s inroads with Florida Hispanics have been fuelled by his strength with conservative Cuban Americans, a Republican-leaning bloc he has courted throughout his presidency.
Biden’s visit to Kissimmee in central Florida was a sign of the campaign’s focus on winning over Puerto Rican voters. Kissimmee received a big influx of people from the U.S. island territory after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Biden rolled out an economic recovery plan for Puerto Rico that would remove restrictions on its access to disaster relief funding, forgive some federal disaster loans and expand investment in community health centres. Trump has defended his handling of the hurricane recovery effort.
Biden has vowed to rescind many of the hardline immigration policies put in place by Trump’s administration and has emphasized the need for broad health and economic strategies to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida, where Hispanics make up about 20% of the state electorate, is a linchpin in Trump’s re-election strategy. A Biden win of Florida’s 29 electoral votes would sharply reduce Trump’s chances of another term – no Republican has won the presidency without Florida since Calvin Coolidge in 1924. Trump, a former New York businessman, changed his permanent residence to Florida last year.
Nationally, Hispanics make up the largest minority voting group, at more than 13% of eligible voters. Biden’s support with Latino voters across the country has dropped; they favoured him over Trump by 9 points in August, down from 30 points in July, according to Reuters/Ipsos data.
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.
They also said there was an opportunity for Biden to make up ground with Florida Hispanics, particularly among the state’s non-Cuban Latinos who in addition to Puerto Ricans include Mexicans, Colombians, and Venezuelans.
(Production: Njuwa Maina)