The Stew Reporting on government and politics

Trump courts Hispanic voters

Politics | The president’s antisocialism message resonates in Florida
by Harvest Prude
Posted 9/17/20, 03:56 pm

In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the Hispanic vote by a resounding 37 points. But this year, Democrats are garnering lower levels of support among Hispanics, a usually reliable Democratic voting bloc. President Donald Trump has spent months reaching out to Latino voters, especially those in Florida with roots in socialist countries.

Latinos are projected to be the largest minority group eligible to vote in the upcoming U.S. election, surpassing the number of eligible African American voters for the first time, according to the Pew Research Center. They make up at least 15 percent of the electorate in Arizona, Nevada, and Texas. Florida has 29 Electoral College votes, and Latinos comprise 20 percent of the state’s eligible voters. The Sunshine State is key to the president’s reelection plan.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has stronger Hispanic support in other states. Colorado’s and New Mexico’s Hispanic populations are trending blue. In Arizona and Texas, Hispanic voters also put Biden ahead of Trump. The president’s strict immigration policy may hurt him among the heavily Mexican Hispanic populations in places like Texas and Arizona, but in Florida, Cubans are the largest Spanish-speaking subgroup.

“Cubans for a long time came [to this country] under an entirely different legal process … and so they aren’t personally affected by immigration issues in the same way,” said Mario H. Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund.

According to U.S. Census data, 28 percent of Florida Hispanics are of Cuban origin, while only 13 percent are Mexican. In Texas, 84 percent of Hispanic people are of Mexican origin. Fewer than 1 percent are Cuban.

A joint Bendixen & Amandi International and Miami Herald poll found that in Florida’s most populous county, Miami-Dade, Trump had a slight advantage of 1 percentage point among all Hispanic voters. His lead jumped to 38 points among Cuban Americans.

Trump has made Florida his second home. He flew multiple times to Miami to speak out against socialism. During one 2017 trip, he signed a memo stiffening U.S. policies against Cuba’s Communist leadership. His campaign has aired Spanish-language ads slamming Biden as soft on socialism. One ad put Biden alongside self-proclaimed democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as well as former authoritarian leaders such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro.

Carlos Odio, co-founder of EquisLabs, told FiveThirtyEight a combination of Trump’s policies on Venezuela and Cuba, his “tough talk on socialism,” and the strength of the economy before the pandemic explain why he polls well among more conservative Hispanic voters.

“Trump is making a push for Veneuzeulans, Nicaraguans, Colombians on this very antisocialist message,” he said. “There’s a much broader set of voters who are just concerned about what applying socialist ideas in a U.S. context could mean for them and for economic opportunity, that harkens back to the reasons they came to the United States.”

Lopez noted Trump’s refusal to give temporary protected status to Venezuelan migrants fleeing a socialist regime might dampen some of that support. Overall in Florida, Biden has a lead in polls, but the gap between the two candidates is within the margin of error, according to RealClearPolitics. In 2016, Trump won in Florida by 1.2 percentage points.

To kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month, Biden traveled to Kissimmee, Fla., on Tuesday, where he tailored his message specifically to the Latino population for the first time. “Donald Trump has done nothing but assault the dignity of Hispanic families, over and over again,” he said. He talked about the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border and the struggles of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Biden’s campaign faced criticism for neglecting Hispanic voters in the primary. In recent weeks, it beefed up its Hispanic staff and bought Spanish-language ads. The Trump campaign so far has outspent the Biden campaign by around $4 million in ad buys, Politico reported.


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Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HarvestPrude.

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