Joe Biden struggling with Latino voters in key state Florida, polls show

People attend a rally for Vice President Mike Pence as he speaks during the Donald J. Trump for President Latino Coalition Rollout at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Miami Airport & Convention Center on June 25, 2019 in Miami, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Polls show Democratic nominee Joe Biden underperforming among Latino voters in Florida, putting him neck-and-neck with President Donald Trump in the crucial battleground state less than eight weeks out from Election Day.

An NBC News/Marist poll released Tuesday showed Trump leading Biden among Latinos in Florida, 50%-46%. That survey found Trump and Biden virtually tied at 48% among likely voters in the state overall. The results came from phone interviews with 766 likely voters from Aug. 31 to Sunday — just after the Republican National Convention. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Another survey of Miami-Dade County voters, shared Tuesday by Bendixen & Amandi International and The Miami Herald, also gave Trump a slight lead over Biden among Hispanic voters, though the result fell within the margin of error.

While Biden is still leading Trump in a series of key swing states, including the Sunshine State, the recent surveys show the nominee’s support among Latinos in Florida is well behind where Hillary Clinton stood in 2016 exit polls of the state – which she lost to Trump.

A spokesman for the Biden campaign did not immediately provide comment.

The shifting ground in the delegate-rich swing state follows months of criticism toward the Biden campaign’s lackluster approach to courting Latino voters.

Politico reported in May that Latino political operatives felt unclear about the campaign’s strategy for marshaling support from the demographic. In an op-ed for CNBC last month, Voto Latino CEO Maria Teresa Kumar argued that the Biden campaign has fallen short on reaching out to the Latino community.

“While Trump will not assume his path to victory will be with majority support among Latinos, he will surely exploit any weakness to undercut the vice president and other candidates,” Kumar wrote.

Hispanics are projected to become the largest minority voting bloc in the country in 2020, Pew Research reported last year. In Florida, Pew found that 20% of eligible voters are Latino.

But that broad Latino label masks a wide range of political diversity among people from different countries. While Clinton in 2016 won 62% of the Latino vote in Florida — compared with just 35% for Trump — Trump handily beat Clinton among Cuban Americans in the state, 54%-41%, according to CNN’s exit poll.

In Tuesday’s survey from Bendixen & Amandi, Cuban Americans broke for Trump over Biden by a whopping 38 percentage points. 

First-generation Cuban Americans, many of whom fled the communist government of Cuba, tend to vote Republican, though younger generations have a lower identification with the GOP. Still, the demographic isn’t always a lock for the Republican candidate: Barack Obama won a slightly larger share of Cuban Americans in Florida than Mitt Romney in the 2012 race.

Polling averages from RealClearPolitics show Biden’s lead in Florida narrowing in recent weeks. The site currently gives the Democrat a 0.8-point spread over Trump, which is only slightly ahead of where Clinton was on this date four years ago. 

The Biden campaign appears to be responding accordingly, announcing increased Spanish-language television spending and new hires aimed at targeting the Hispanic community, NBC News reported last week.

Trump, meanwhile, has sought to tar Biden and the Democratic Party as far-left socialists – a message that Democratic operatives say could tap into fears of those in Latino communities wary of authoritarian regimes.

The president visited Jupiter, Florida, on Tuesday to announce he would sign an extension and expansion of a moratorium on oil drilling off the Atlantic coast. In his remarks, Trump accused his political opponents of using environmental policy as “an excuse to advance a socialist platform that will impose trillions and trillions of dollars in new taxes, and send our jobs overseas, making it impossible to open up new companies and to live less expensively.”

Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, is scheduled to visit Miami with her husband on Thursday.

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