By JOHN VERHOVEK and MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News
(KISSIMMEE, Fla.) — Former Vice President Joe Biden heads to Florida on Tuesday, his first trip to the key battleground state since officially securing the Democratic presidential nomination and a visit that coincides with a fresh slate of polling showing a tightening race in the state with President Donald Trump.
A portion of Biden’s visit to Sunshine State, a Hispanic heritage month event in Kissimmee, will be focused on courting Latino voters his campaign has identified as a key constituency needed for victory in November. Florida’s 29 electoral votes, the third largest prize in the nation, will be key to either a Trump and Biden victory, and the Latino vote, which comprised 18% of the state’s electorate in 2016, according to exit polls, promises to again be a pivotal voting bloc in 2020.
While recent national polling shows the former vice president leading Trump in support among Latino voters overall nationally, his support with the key voting group in Florida is weaker than Hillary Clinton’s was in 2016, and a recent NBC News/Marist Florida poll showed Trump leading Biden in support with Latino voters in the state, 50% to 46%, with a sizable lead among Cuban voters.
“We know we have work to do and we have said from the beginning…we’re really working to earn every single vote in this country and we want to earn the votes of the Latino and Hispanic community and so we’re doing the work,” Biden Senior adviser Symone Sanders acknowledged to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” Sunday.
Biden stressed his intention to court the diverse voting group on his trip Tuesday.
“I will talk about how I am going to work like the devil to make sure I turn every Latino and Hispanic vote,” Biden told reporters of his visits to Tampa and Kissimmee.
Both the Biden and Trump campaigns have spent heavily on the airwaves to court both Latino voters and seniors, with the Biden team running ads specifically targeted toward Cuban voters in the Tampa and Miami areas and Puerto Ricans in the Orlando area — a population that has grown in the state since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017. Still, some Latino leaders have said Biden isn’t doing enough outreach.
The Biden campaign has also run ads focused on protecting Social Security, a top issue for Florida seniors, that have drawn the direct ire of Trump.
“I will ALWAYS protect Seniors and your Social Security! Sleepy Joe Biden will do the opposite, he will raise your taxes and DESTROY our Country!” Trump tweeted last week.
The Biden campaign, as it did in most key battleground states in August, significantly outpaced the Trump team in terms of TV ad spending, according to data compiled by Kantar/CMAG.
In the month of August, Biden more than doubled Trump’s spending on television ads in Florida, pouring in $13.4 million while Trump spent just under $6 million. Campaign spending on digital ads in Florida was roughly even, with Biden still slightly outspending Trump.
With fewer than 50 days until Election Day and the coronavirus pandemic continuing to have a large impact across the country, Biden enters the final stretch of the 2020 campaign flush with cash after raising an eye-popping $364.5 million in August with the Democratic National committee but facing a campaigning crunch after COVID-19 sidelined Biden’s travel for months.
Biden’s team is still largely conducting the campaign in a virtual manner, investing $100 million in on-the-ground organizing that eschews the normal door-knocking and focuses almost entirely on digital and over-the-phone conversations with voters to win over support. But the campaign did not rule out the possibility of returning to the tried-and-true campaigning method.
“We’ve said that from day one, if we feel comfortable that it is safe for our volunteers, our staff and our voters, we will execute a program on the ground,” Biden Campaign Manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said as staff numbers have swelled to 2,500 across battleground states.
“We’ll continue to monitor this as we go. There is no hard yes or hard no except for safety and ensuring that everyone is taking the appropriate…mechanisms to allow them to be safe. And that’s really how we’re building this program.”
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