Now, though, Trump has a record on immigration, Puerto Rico, healthcare, coronavirus response and foreign policy – and Democrats learned from Florida’s last election that failing to aggressively reach out to Latino voters cost them the governor’s office and the retention of a U.S. Senate seat.
“In 2018, some of the statewide campaigns in Florida did not have robust Latino engagement,” Barreto said. “Puerto Rican turnout in Central Florida was not robust.”
Biden’s campaign plans to harness the “incredible anger” among Puerto Rican voters in Florida over Trump’s handling of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Barreto says. And it sees an opening to increase support levels in border-state Arizona, where Latinos have “been deeply influenced by the immigrant rights movement, especially younger Latinos, and that is very bad news for Donald Trump. Already, 2018 demonstrated that heightened Latino turnout can flip the state, and with continued investment in Latino outreach, 2020 could follow the same path as 2018.”
The campaign, he said, is ready to “pivot in South Florida and have different messages on the diversity of the community there, whether you’re talking to the Cubans who were born in Cuba or born in the United States, South Americans … and engaging Latinos where they are and the issues that matters to them.”
The Biden campaign already began doing that in its Spanish-language TV ads that started running last month in Florida and Arizona.
In Tucson and Phoenix, the ads were narrated by a Mexican-accented Spanish-speaker. In Miami, the narrator spoke in a Cuban accent. And in Orlando and Tampa, the narrator’s voice was Puerto Rican.
“We’re not taking anything for granted in this election,” said Jennifer Molina, Biden’s Latino Media. “The Latino vote is critically important, which is why we’re bringing on Latino Decisions to help us with our messaging and outreach in order to engage with Latino voters on why Joe Biden is the best choice for President.”
Molina joined the campaign this month along with Pili Tobar, communications director for voter coalitions, and Juan Penalosa, a senior adviser in Florida. They join Julie Chavez Rodriguez, hired in May as a senior adviser, and the campaign’s longtime Latinx outreach director, Laura Jimenez, and a handful of other operatives with specialties in persuading and turning out Hispanic voters.
In a written statement, the Trump campaign said the president’s values are shared by Hispanic voters who “are motivated by jobs, education, family, faith and community values. Those are core values for President Donald Trump and Republicans and leave little room for wondering why we continue to win in Florida.”
Biden advisers and campaign insiders, whoacknowledge Biden has ground to make up with Hispanic voters if he wants to put Trump away, say the heightened focus on Latinos is driven by common-sense campaign strategy. But it’s also a reflection of the greatly improved finances ofthe once cash-strapped campaign.
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Trump has a cash advantage and he has been using it on TV – the president’s reelection campaign has spentnearly $1.2 million on Spanish-language ads in Arizona and Florida in the past three weeks, compared with less than $100,000 aired on TV by Biden. But the Biden campaign is now spending heavily on digital advertising as well and plans to air more TV ads going forward. An outside group, Nuestro PAC, is also giving Biden Spanish-language air-support.
With the extra spending and new hires, Biden has made a sharp pivot toward addressing the longstanding criticisms of his Latino outreach from fellow Democrats, who have grown increasingly bullish on his chances of winning in November.
TheBiden campaign’s continuing embrace of digital campaigning amid the pandemic could have a beneficial effect when it comes to outreach because Latino voters are disproportionately young and digitally connected.
Still, themost recent Trump ad focusing on crime and underfunded police departments made an impression on Spanish-speaking voters in South Florida who were part of a focus group conducted by Democrats, according to a source familiar with them.
“We’ve got some problem areas we need to fix, especially down in Miami,” said one Democrat familiar with the Biden campaign’s research that shows him lagging Clinton’s 2016 totals in Florida’s biggest county, Miami-Dade, which also has the largest proportion of Hispanic voters.
The campaign’s Latino outreach will extend to other battlegrounds, where a Latino Decisions poll released Friday shows problems for Trump, Barreto said.
“Beyond Arizona and Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania have large and growing Latino populations that could ultimately decide a very close election,” he said. “Our research in these two states suggest over 70% of Latinos oppose Trump’s divisive rhetoric and see Biden as fighting for Latinos.”