© AP Photo / Cliff Owen

After months of concern among Democrats about Joe Biden’s efforts to win over Hispanic voters in Florida and other key states ahead of the 2020 election, the campaign for his party’s alleged nominee this week hired a Hispanic adviser high ranking, he began to criticize President Donald Trump about the unemployment rate among the state’s Hispanics and the state’s Latino and to conduct regular virtual chats in Spanish with Florida allies.

But Democratic activists are still concerned that Biden has done too little with Hispanic voters to win back the nation’s largest politically indecisive state from President Donald Trump. And some say that soon may be too late.

In the midterm elections, Democrats blamed narrowly defeats in the races for governor and federal senator for the party’s poor popularity among Hispanics. Now some strategists are concerned that Biden is making the same mistake. With less than six months to go before the election, the former vice president preaches patience to frustrated grassroots activists who question the campaign’s dedication to winning over minority voters in the state.

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“It is not clear if the Biden campaign is going to invest at the necessary level in a state like Florida, which is distressing for those of us on the ground,” said Andrea Mercado, executive director of the New Florida Majority, one of the political organizations. largest base in the state.

Even though polls indicate Biden has a slight advantage over Trump in Florida, the Hispanic vote may prove critical.

With Trump standing firm among white voters, who are the majority of the state’s electorate, Biden must probably win a large part of Florida’s diverse Hispanic community if he wants to win in a state where a few thousand votes mean he can mean victory or victory. defeat in a presidential campaign. Polls released since March have identified support for Biden among Hispanic voters lagging behind Hillary Clinton in 2016, when Trump won Florida, and well below Barack Obama’s 71% national support in 2012. .

In March, a Univision poll identified Trump as having a 3-point lead over Biden, although 62% of Hispanic voters in Florida said they disapproved of Trump’s work as president. In April, a Latino Decisions poll found that Biden had 49% support among Hispanic voters across the country.

The battle is a continuation of the Democratic presidential primaries, when Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign invested millions of dollars in states like Nevada and hit the former vice president among Hispanic voters. Biden performed better among Florida’s diverse Hispanic population in the March 17 primaries. But somehow his campaign is starting from scratch as the race progresses to the general election and he is forced to reach voters not affiliated with the Democratic Party.

“They need to get ready and have an infrastructure in place in Florida ready by June,” said Christian Ulvert, a Miami consultant who handled Spanish media in Andrew Gillum’s unsuccessful 2018 campaign for Florida governor.

But it won’t be easy.

Chuck Rocha, a senior advisor to the Sanders presidential campaign specializing in mobilizing Hispanics, said reaching out to Hispanic voters in Florida is especially expensive and time-consuming. Rocha warned against adopting the “Bill Nelson model,” a reference to former Florida Senator Bill Nelson’s 2018 campaign to the Senate, who was harshly criticized by other Democrats for doing too little to win over Hispanic voters, particularly Puerto Ricans. . Nelson lost the race to Republican Rick Scott by a few thousand votes after a count.

“Whatever their program is for white voters, they should be spending twice as much” to reach Hispanics, Rocha said. “The Hispanic vote is always of second importance to these campaigns. They don’t understand the nuances. “

Rocha said Biden needs to be on the radio in Miami and should try to get his message across to Puerto Ricans in Orlando, where many have a less than positive view of Trump but are also registering as independent. “They know they hate Donald Trump. They know they hate Republicans because of what Donald Trump did, ”he said. “But they also want Democrats to tell them what they are going to do.”

Adapting unique messages to the Venezuelan, Colombian, Nicaraguan and other communities in Florida complicates the effort. And Biden has to face support for Trump in Miami’s conservative Cuban-American exile community and his campaign’s accusations that the former vice president is lazy with Latin American autocrats.

“The more Hispanics to Biden and his record, the more they will realize it is the wrong choice for the United States,” said Mercedes Schlapp, senior advisor to the Trump campaign, in an interview.

Activists like Mercado worry that Biden is not only not spending resources to create a message on television and social media targeting individual segments of the Hispanic community. Sometimes he’s not even doing the bare minimum at campaign events. Biden’s first visit to Florida as a candidate, prior to the state cessation of coronavirus activities, included one in Miami’s Little Havana. But when he kicked off a virtual country tour earlier this month with virtual events with allies in Jacksonville and Tampa, a relaunch of a new phase of the online-only campaign amid the pandemic, Biden did not include an event for Hispanic voters. .

“There was no specific Hispanic-focused activity,” Mercado said in a recent interview.

However, Mercado is among those who are encouraged by signs of life in the campaign.

This week, Biden hired Julie Chávez Rodríguez, the granddaughter of civil rights leader César Chávez, to lead his outreach campaign in Spanish. The position became vacant six months after Vanessa Cárdenas’ departure, apparently out of frustration at the lack of commitment to win the Hispanic vote. Chávez Rodríguez joins Biden’s national director of Latino Outreach, Laura Jiménez, who is Dominican and from Palm Beach County, and other advisers, such as Cristóbal Alex, former director of the Latino Victory Fund, and Juan González, former deputy assistant secretary of state .

And Mercado will participate in a Chat with Biden event this Saturday, part of a series of three aimed at supporters in Florida. Similar virtual chats have already been created in Arizona and Colorado, two states where the former vice president lagged behind Hispanics against Sanders. The roundtable in Florida, which is open to the public, will include panelists like Miami Senator Annette Taddeo and Victor Torres, Kissimmee State Senator.

The Biden campaign has also hosted several events in recent days specifically targeting Florida’s Hispanic voters and the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a crisis that has complicated Biden’s ability to campaign in Florida, but has also undermined Trump’s message of economic prosperity.

“I am pretty sure that the next job report, although I hope I am wrong, will indicate that unemployment among Hispanics will be over 20%,” said Tom Pérez, president of the Democratic National Committee, who noted that at this time that rate is of 19%, he told reporters Thursday in a conference call about the battles of the Hispanic community in Florida. “That is the reality of the Trump economy,” he said.

Biden also has the opportunity to choose a Hispanic as a ballot partner. “No doubt. It would make a big difference in Florida, “said Henry Muñoz, former chief financial officer of the Democratic National Committee, who said he has been in contact with the Biden campaign and constantly” reminds “his leadership that there are several Hispanics who would be ready for that. position.

It is also unclear to the Democratic strategists and activists who spoke to the Miami Herald whether Biden will make a significant investment in an advertising campaign targeting Hispanic voters. Newsweek reported this month that the campaign was preparing to launch a $ 55 million outreach effort targeting Hispanics, but the campaign questioned the figure after publication.

When asked by the Miami Herald about the report, the Biden campaign did not comment on its accuracy.

“We are competing for every vote in the community, we are in the process of developing and expanding our efforts to achieve it,” said Isabel Aldunate, deputy director of Strategic Communications for Biden and press secretary in Spanish, in a statement.

Aldunate added that the campaign is working on a “robust and thoughtful” paid media plan, “but we are smart and judicious to make sure we do it right.”

Two Democratic advisers who spoke to the Miami Herald said Biden still has time to launch an ad campaign targeting Florida’s Hispanic voters, noting that Obama’s ads didn’t spread until June in the 2008 election campaign. 2012, Obama began his Hispanic-focused message campaign in February. And former representative Joe García, former head of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and president of the Cuban American National Foundation, pointed out that Obama repeatedly visited Florida and Miami in 2007 and 2008, specifically touching on issues of diplomacy towards Latin America and Cuba in the speeches, such as one on May 20, Cuba’s Independence Day.

“The idea of [Obama] It started late is a misunderstanding of what was happening, “said Garcia.

Even so, even critics of Biden’s campaign efforts pointed out that the National Democratic Committee and the Florida Democratic Party also have a responsibility to reach voters, and the two organizations have been working since 2019 to create more links. deep with minority neighborhoods. Garcia noted that he is managed by Executive Director Juan Peñalosa, a Hispanic strategist from South Florida.

The Florida Democratic Party has also improved its message to Hispanic voters since 2018, such as the launch of a regular Spanish-language program on Actualidad Radio, one of the largest Spanish-language AM radio stations in South Florida. The leadership of the state party, which Peñalosa said is also predominantly Hispanic, has increased publicity in the past year and a half, investing in purchases in local media.

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© 2020 El Nuevo Herald (Miami)

Visit El Nuevo Herald (Miami) at www.elnuevoherald.com

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