Dems fear loss of sup­port from Florida Lati­nos

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION - By Steve Peo­ples and Will Weissert Steve Peo­ples and Will Weissert are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

MI­AMI — Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris’ mo­tor­cade raced past Colom­bian neigh­bor­hoods and made a quick stop for take­out in Do­ral — or “Do­ral­zuela” as it’s known lo­cally be­cause of its large Venezue­lan pop­u­la­tion — be­fore speed­ing through the Cuban strong­hold of Hialeah.

But dur­ing her first trip to Florida as Joe Bi­den’s run­ning mate last week, Har­ris did lit­tle to court this re­gion’s boom­ing — and po­lit­i­cally in­flu­en­tial — Latino pop­u­la­tion. She in­stead fo­cused on African Amer­i­can lead­ers wait­ing at a his­tor­i­cally Black univer­sity in Mi­ami Gar­dens.

“You truly are the fu­ture of our coun­try,” Har­ris said into a mega­phone after the mo­tor­cade pulled up to Florida Me­mo­rial Univer­sity. “You are the ones who are go­ing to in­spire us and fight for the ideals of our coun­try.”

In Amer­ica’s lead­ing pres­i­den­tial bat­tle­ground, there’s mount­ing anx­i­ety among Democrats that the Bi­den campaign’s stand­ing among Lati­nos is slip­ping, po­ten­tially giv­ing Pres­i­dent Trump an open­ing in his re­elec­tion bid. That’s fu­el­ing an ur­gent ef­fort by Bi­den, Har­ris and their al­lies to shore up older vot­ers, sub­ur­ban­ites and African Amer­i­cans to make up for po­ten­tial short­com­ings else­where.

New York bil­lion­aire Mike Bloomberg com­mit­ted over the weekend to spend at least $100 mil­lion in Florida to help the Demo­cratic ticket. Bi­den is sched­uled to make his first visit to the state as the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee on Tues­day, where he will hold a round­table with vet­er­ans in Tampa be­fore at­tend­ing a His­panic Heritage Month event in Kis­sim­mee.

If Bi­den re­claims the up­per Mid­west for Democrats, he won’t need Florida to cap­ture the pres­i­dency. But Trump has vir­tu­ally no path to re­elec­tion with­out it, which is why the state re­mains a top pri­or­ity for

Democrats.

Con­cerns about Bi­den’s strength in Florida were driven in part by an Nbc­marist poll re­leased last week, which found Lati­nos in the state about evenly di­vided be­tween Bi­den and Trump.

“Right now, I think the Bi­den campaign has work to do,” says Javier Fer­nan­dez, a Demo­crat run­ning for the state Se­nate in Mi­ami­dade County. “I don’t know that they’re su­per ex­cited about Joe Bi­den.”

Bi­den’s un­cer­tain sta­tus with Lati­nos con­founds many Democrats who point to Trump’s re­peated anti­im­mi­grant rhetoric, his strug­gle to con­tain the pan­demic and his slow re­sponse to the hur­ri­cane that dev­as­tated Puerto Rico.

Mike Stocker / South Florida Sun Sen­tinel

Robert Mcknight and his chil­dren wait for the ar­rival of Demo­cratic vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ka­mala Har­ris last Thurs­day at Florida Me­mo­rial Univer­sity in Mi­ami Gar­dens.

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