Posted on June 20, 2019

Democrats Fear Trump, Republicans Are Making Inroads With Hispanic Voters in Florida

David Smiley, Miami Herald, June 20, 2019

When Donald Trump’s campaign manager said in Miami recently that he planned to launch a national Hispanic outreach effort in Florida, Democrats took notice.

The state’s 2.2 million Hispanic voters make up an outsized portion of Florida’s electorate, and nearly two-thirds voted in 2016 for Hillary Clinton. Last year, Trump’s hard-line immigration policies and rhetoric contributed to sweeping Republican losses around the country as strong Hispanic turnout helped Democrats take the House of Representatives.

But the belief in demographic destiny is dead among Florida Democrats, crushed in November by victorious Trump-backed candidates who more than reversed his 2016 losses among Sunshine State Hispanics. In races decided by the thinnest of margins, Florida’s Hispanic voters swung back to the right just enough to deliver wins to two of Trump’s top allies, keeping the governorship in conservative hands and turning over a Democratic U.S. Senate seat to the Republicans.


“Republicans are not in any effort to win the Hispanic vote. That’s never their objective,” said Democratic pollster Fernand Amandi. “Their calculus is how do we manage the margins and do what’s necessary to squeeze out an extra 4 or 5 percentage points, which in the state of Florida represents the margins between victory and defeat.”

That’s exactly what happened in 2018.

Following Trump’s election, Democrats lost 8 percentage points at the top of the ticket. Hispanic turnout nearly doubled compared to the previous midterm election in 2014, but data suggest turnout skewed older and Cuban, a demographic group that votes reliably Republican. Exit polls showed Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson earning only about 54 percent of the Hispanic vote against Congressman Ron DeSantis and then-Gov. Rick Scott, respectively, in the races for governor and U.S. Senate.

In their campaigns, the Republicans provided a playbook for Trump in 2020 by aggressively courting exile communities in Miami — home to nearly half the state’s voting Hispanic population — and, in Scott’s case, traveling to Puerto Rico at least a half-dozen times. {snip}

Now, the question is whether 2018 was an anomaly made possible only by Trump’s absence from the ballot, or whether it was the beginning of a trend in which Republican candidates are making inroads with the state’s largest minority voting bloc. Polling has varied, but Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale says internal data show the president is in better shape with Hispanics than in 2016 — a scenario that would jibe with Trump’s aggressive efforts to crack down on Cuba through sanctions and support in Venezuela for opposition leader Juan Guaidó.


Democrats, on the other hand, generally admit that they were out-strategized last year. {snip}

Already mobilized, the party this month sent the first 90 of 300 organizers — many of them bilingual — into South Florida and Central Florida in order to register voters and talk shop. And party leaders recognized the gaping hole they left in their media strategy by failing to promote Hispanic party surrogates on Spanish-language media. Since the midterm elections, the state party has gathered at least 78 surrogates to promote on news and social programs in Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Puerto Rico.


Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said he believes the party’s presidential candidates have an opportunity next week in Miami to leap forward in the fight for Hispanic voters. He says Democrats need to explain that they’re pushing to grant temporary protected status to Venezuelans and trying to improve medical access for the working class.