Biden takes a swing through unfriendly ‘Trump Country’
“Will Florida be in play? Or do you put it in play so [Republicans] have to spend resources to defend it instead of attacking [in other states]?” said John Morgan, a prominent Florida-based trial attorney and major Democratic donor. “That’s another part of the calculus that Jen O’Malley Dillon and others will have to decide,” he added, referring to Biden’s
soon-to-be campaign chair.
Biden’s brief, money-focused excursion is emblematic of the challenge Florida presents to his campaign: It’s an enormous, expensive state that Democrats haven’t won at the presidential level since 2012. Latino voters here, who make up nearly a fifth of the state’s electorate, are trending away from Democrats. Republicans hold all statewide offices, have a supermajority in the Legislature and majorities in the congressional delegation. And former President Donald Trump, who won Florida by more than three points in 2020 and will likely be the GOP presidential nominee, is a Florida resident.
A national Democratic operative, granted anonymity to speak freely about the 2024 race without angering the party, said Florida has lost its battleground status, and Democrats are coming to the state simply to raise money — not campaign for Florida Democrats or attempt to flip the state.
“It’s the nation’s ATM,” the person said. “Democrats are going to go there to raise money — as they should. … And they’re going to take that money and they’re going to invest it in states that are actually competitive, unlike Florida.”
Biden’s chances in November look worse than in 2020, given that Republicans have out-registered Democrats
by 780,000 voters. Unlike in other states during the 2022 midterms where Republicans underperformed, Democrats got trounced down the ballot that year thanks to a strong showing for Gov. Ron DeSantis. It’s a far cry from 2009 and 2012, when former President Barack Obama won Florida with Biden as his running mate.
Asked about Biden’s strategy in Florida, campaign spokesperson Kevin Munoz
pointed to his recent comments on MSNBC, where he said the president had “many pathways to 270,” referring to the number of electoral votes required to win. Munoz also told POLITICO that Florida, which has 30 electoral votes, was “an important contrast state for us that we can uplift as MAGA, unpopular and extreme.”
Latino voters could also pose a problem for Biden in Florida. Latinos are one of the most important constituencies in the state, and the Biden campaign last year announced it was planning to
spend $25 million in Hispanic and Black outreach. It also aired two
ads in South Florida during the Miami GOP debate and during a Trump interview on Univision and
held a press conference with surrogates who called out GOP presidential candidates for their “extremism.”
recent CNBC poll found Trump winning Latinos nationally by 5 percentage points in a head-to-head match up with Biden, mirroring similar downward trends in other polls for Biden with Latino voters.
Democratic strategists also raised concerns about
disinformation campaigns that targeted Latino voters in 2020 and 2022, adding that “we’re not going to win that fight if we don’t compete in the densest Latino media environment in the country,” said Joshua Karp, a Democratic consultant who’s worked on multiple Florida campaigns. Telemundo, the largest broadcaster of Spanish-language media, is based in Miami.
“It’s really hard to overstate the importance of communicating to Florida Latinos, if you want to also win Latino voters in other states,” Karp continued. “What happens in Florida doesn’t stay in Florida.”
Biden has visited Florida six times as president, most recently to survey the storm damage from Hurricane Idalia even after DeSantis —
then a 2024 GOP presidential candidate — wouldn’t appear alongside him.
Members of Biden’s inner circle
have also touched down on Florida, including Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who last week
toured the site of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and first lady Jill Biden, who was scheduled to speak at a fundraiser over
State Democrats still see glimmers of hope for Biden and the party overall. They won
an upset in the Jacksonville mayor’s race last year and narrowly flipped a state legislative seat in central Florida in January. And Florida is inching closer to putting abortion rights and cannabis legalization ballot measures up in 2024.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried, who is attending Biden’s Miami fundraiser, said the president’s visits showed the state was important.
“We have been able to make a successful pitch that if you want to stop the extremism, if you want to stop the anti-democratic messaging and policies, you’ve got to go to the belly of the beast, which is Florida,” she said.
Florida Republicans panned Biden’s visit, with Evan Power, who chairs the state party, saying the president’s policies will make Americans less safe and Brian Hughes, Florida director for the Trump campaign, calling it “Trump Country.”
“Crooked Joe Biden may shake down liberals here for a few bucks, but polling consistently shows a dominant double-digit lead for President Trump,” Hughes said, bashing the president’s policies on immigration, energy and the economy.
Biden’s political operation has frequently dispatched Vice President
Kamala Harris to Florida, where she criticized DeSantis over a six-week abortion ban he signed into law and controversial history standards within a 216-page document that said enslaved people developed skills that, “in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Attorney General Merrick Garland, among others, have also recently visited the state.
Miami-Dade County Democratic Chair Robert Dempster said he’d like to see even more surrogates come to Florida and was encouraged by Biden’s visit Tuesday. When Democrats pour resources into the state, he said, Florida was a “coin flip,” whereas Republicans won by double digits when they didn’t, such as in 2022. Democrats still have an
82,000-plus registration advantage in Miami-Dade.
“We have to be resourced to the point where you’re keeping Republicans honest in Florida,” Dempster said, “because if you don’t, the money will get spent over the same swing states the Democrats won last time.”