Elections 2020,  State

Florida’s Latino Vote Could Decide the Election

The race for the Latino vote is on in Florida. Both the Biden and Trump campaigns are increasing their Spanish-language resources to court one of the biggest voting blocs that could decide who wins Florida – and the election, for that matter.

Latinos are expected to be the nation’s largest ethnic voting bloc in the 2020 election. A record 32 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the upcoming election across the country.

In Florida, Latinos make up over 20% of the registered electorate. Since the 2016 election, the Latino voting bloc grew by 8%. 

While it is unrealistic that Latinos as a whole will favor one candidate over the other, getting a majority of the vote in the highest density Florida counties can make the difference when all the votes are counted on election day.

The latest polls suggest that the race between Trump and Biden is getting tighter. Biden has a 1.5 lead across all the different polls that have been conducted in the past few weeks and averaged together. Looking at the average is better than just looking at one poll because the average shows the development over time, not just a snapshot of the race at one moment.

Biden’s lead is well within the margin of error for polling and could be threatened by a surge of Latino support for Trump.

A Miami Herald poll – conducted Sept. 1 to Sept. 4 – found that 47% of Latino voters in Miami-Dade County supported Trump and 46% supported Biden.

“If Biden under performs in what should be one of his strongest counties — and is certainly the largest county for Democratic votes in the state of Florida — it might imperil his chances of winning Florida unless there is a massive white voter exodus from Trump in other parts of the state,” said Fernand Amandi, a Democratic strategist and Miami-based pollster who was behind the poll.

While these numbers are alarming for the Biden campaign, the surge of Latino support for Trump in Miami-Dade is just one snapshot of the entire Latino vote.

Within the Latino vote, there are significant populations of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, Peruvians and Dominicans – all of which have different voting patterns.

Cubans, for instance, have traditionally voted Republican for decades in their enclaves in south Florida. Puerto Ricans, on the other hand, traditionally vote for Democrats and have a strong community in the outside areas of Orlando, a critical pillar of the I-4 corridor.

Cuban support for the president, especially among the older population, will remain strong because of Trump’s campaign message against what he calls “the socialist left.”

Puerto Ricans are not fond of Trump, especially after how the president handled the disaster response to Hurricane Maria three years ago. Since 2018, there have been record numbers of Puerto Ricans who have registered to vote in Florida.

Despite the different voting patterns, the Republican strategy remains the same.

Trump’s main Latino outreach strategy has been defining Biden and the Democrats as the dangerous socialist left that is similar to many regimes that caused many Latinos to immigrate to Florida. The generalization of the Latino vote as being entirely against socialism may not pay the dividends Trump is expecting, however.

A sharp rise in voter registration among young Florida Latino voters, many of who do not have the same negative views about socialism as the older generations, is another factor of the Latino vote that will come into play in the 2020 election.

As Trump is rallying against the so-called “socialist left,” Biden’s messaging against Trump’s handling of COVID-19 has been his main strategy. The Biden campaign is significantly outspending Trump on Latino media markets, including popular radio shows and TV networks.

Winning the Latino vote for either candidate will ultimately come down to which type of voter shows up. The consistent Cuban vote alone may not single-handedly hand Florida to Trump, but it can make the difference between a clear versus a razor-thin win. The new young Latino vote, which is very progressive, can tilt the race in Biden’s favor if enough voters turn out.

The diversity of Latino politics in Florida will only get more complex as the Latino voting bloc continues to grow and establish itself even after the 2020 election.

The race for the Latino vote is just beginning.

Featured image: Polling place sign. Unmodified photo by Mrs.Gemstone from USA used under a Creative Commons license: (https://bit.ly/2TAhB3M)

Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.  

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