Analysis of our partner portal “Economist”: Florida could decide the entire choice, but Biden takes it easy
Florida is considered a hotly contested political patch in the presidential election. With the help of an app, Trump’s team wants to get swap voters and undecided voters to tick the Republicans.
It’s a scorching Saturday afternoon. Joe Gruters, Florida Republican chairman, and Linda Trocine, the Republican party leader in the Seminole County constituency, are door-to-door polling.
The politicians are equipped with a smartphone app for mass analysis of personal user data. The app helps them identify the undecided voters and Republican-leaning Democrats in Lake Mary, a suburb in the north of Orlando, and address them directly.
“Only make crosses with the Republicans”
The technology keeps what it promises: A lanky man with sandy blonde hair and a deep smoker’s voice, whom the app identifies as a swing voter, pushes their brochures straight back into the hands of politicians: “You’re just wasting things on me. I’m making my crosses this time only with the Republicans. “
Another non-party voter of Latin American descent raves about Donald Trump, as does a man in his fifties identified by the app as a Democrat who is watching an American football game in his garage. “We pound the sidewalks out here every day,” explains Joe Gruters. “We’ve already knocked on more than 1.7 million front doors. Meanwhile, Joe Biden is trying to win the election campaign from his basement.”
Biden changes strategy
This accusation does not entirely correspond to the reality of the election campaign. Biden was last on a campaign tour in Florida on September 15. On weekends, Biden’s Latin American supporters in South Florida regularly organize long car parades during which they wave the flags of the Democratic Party and loudly express their support for the Vice President. So far, however, Biden’s election campaign has been based on the assumption that most voters in a pandemic would rather be called than to talk to strangers on their doorstep.
This may well change on election day. Just recently, Joe Biden increased his campaign budget in Florida. A large portion of the $ 100 million that Biden’s former adversary, businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, most recently donated to the Democratic election campaign, will likely be spent in Florida.
If Trump loses in Florida, he would have almost no chance of staying in office
Only two states, California and Texas, can get more electoral votes in presidential elections than Florida. In contrast to Texas and California, however, Florida is traditionally considered a hotly contested political patch:
- Barack Obama and George W. Bush each won the state twice.
- Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton there in 2016 by less than two percentage points.
- Only once in the last twelve presidential elections did Florida vote for the ultimate loser in the presidential election.
If Trump wins a victory in his adopted home Florida this year, the forecast model of “The Economist” assumes that the president would then also have a roughly fifty percent chance of winning at the national level. Should Trump lose Florida, however, he would have almost no chance of re-election.
Two populations decide choice in Florida
The state will most likely announce its results on election night. A clear victory of Biden would therefore quickly deflate an expected rhetorical challenge to the election result by Trump. Surveys from Florida indicate a close race – at least much closer than the one that is emerging at the same time at the US federal level. In the period up to November 3, Florida citizens should therefore be prepared for a rush of advertising campaigns and personal donations from both election campaigns.
In Florida, the key to success lies in the hands of two populations in particular, the Latin American and the elderly. Within the first group, Trump recently performed disproportionately well, in the second disproportionately poor.
A recently published poll put Biden’s approval rate among Florida Latinos at around 52 percent, while Trump’s ratings in the same group were around 36 percent. Other polls showed an even smaller gap between the two candidates. By comparison, the same survey also found that Joe Biden won over 65 percent of Latinos in Arizona and 66 percent of Latinos in Texas over the same period.
In part, these values reflect the fact that Florida has a disproportionately large proportion of Latin American citizens. About one in four residents of the state has roots in Central or South America. An estimated one-third of Florida’s Latin Americans are native to Cuba. Cubans living in the United States traditionally vote Republican. There are also many Venezuelans, Colombians and Nicaraguans living in the state – also groups who, in contrast to the reliably democratically oriented US Mexicans, tend to vote for the Republicans.
Trump has been in “constant campaign mode” in Florida since 2016
Despite all of this, Hillary Clinton received around 62 percent of the Latino votes in Florida in 2016, and Barack Obama won 60 percent in 2012. After Obama’s success in Florida, the Republicans also invested heavily in their public relations work. For this reason, among other things, the Republicans Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis managed in 2018 to oppose a national trend towards the Democrats and to win the respective elections for Senator and Governor of Florida. Trump is trying today to imitate his party colleagues in Florida.
Fernand Amandi, pollster and head of a market research institute in Miami, says the president has been in “constant campaign mode” in his state since 2016. ” The democratic strategy, on the other hand, is to only get involved in the last moments of the election campaign in Florida and to wait and see whether this could lead to a victory.
Biden has to cushion losses
The Democrats are justifiably concerned that Trump’s regular denigration of their party as “socialist”, especially the many anti-socialist Americans with Colombian, Venezuelan or Cuban roots, could keep them from joining the Democrats.
Carlos Odio, a former White House employee under Barack Obama and founder of the consultancy “Equis Lab”, assumes that Trump will also try to convince individual voters in strongly Latin American constituencies with targeted speeches. It is true that the president will hardly be able to win an absolute majority among the Latinos in Florida. However, Trump’s efforts could help cushion the president’s losses in other areas, adding even more pressure to Joe Biden.
However, Biden has recently benefited from particularly high poll numbers among the older residents of Florida, which should at least partially offset his relative weakness in the group of Latin Americans. A recently published survey by the AARP institute found only a very small lead for President Trump within the age group of senior citizens. Among the over-50-year-old voters, Trump led by just three percentage points ahead of Biden, but among the over-65-year-olds, who make up about 21 percent of the state’s population, Biden was one percent ahead.
The last Democrat to convince this age group in Florida was Al Gore. Shortly before the 2000 election, Gore had convinced many American seniors that a George W. Bush administration would cut many of their social benefits. Biden is unlikely to achieve a similar triumph this year, either in Florida or at the US federal level. However, he may still be able to adequately cushion his losses among Latinos by improving performance among other demographic groups.
Republicans mostly followed the exact opposite strategy than the Democrats
Chris Stanley is the president of the Democratic Club at The Village senior residence in central Florida. On Saturday afternoons, Stanley and her colleagues armed with Biden posters campaign on the sidewalks of the nearby town of Wildwood. The Democrat says that due to Trump’s clear failure in the Corona crisis, numerous Republicans have already been persuaded by her to vote for Joe Biden this year: “These are people who approach us and say: ‘I am a Republican and I will stay with it, but what can I do to help get rid of this guy? ‘”
Trump also recently suffered significant losses in polls among the white residents of Florida. In 2016 Hillary Clinton was only able to convince about 32 percent of this population group. A poll last week put Joe Biden’s likely proportion of white votes in Florida at about 38 percent.
The swing voters in particular are making the overall political picture of Florida much more complicated in this election year than in earlier times, when the Democrats mostly tried to compensate for their weakness in the more white north of Florida with an active election campaign in the far more diverse south. The Republicans mostly followed exactly the opposite strategy, and both parties have always vied for the favor of voters in the so-called I-4 corridor between the cities of Tampa and Orlando.
Republicans don’t want to risk anything in Florida
Florida is an extremely diverse state that has always been shaped by waves of immigration from both home and abroad. Conservative retirees from the Midwest, who otherwise would have settled in states like Arizona, are now increasingly drawn to senior residences like “The Village” near Wilderwood.
A wave of Puerto Rican immigrants to the cities of Orlando and Kissimmee recently shifted the political landscape of central Florida further to the left. President Trump’s weak approval in the suburbs meant that his campaign aids peddle mainly in the bacon belts further outside the cities.
Republican efforts to win Latin American votes have recently led to the fact that a victory for the Democrats in South Florida, which was previously believed to be so secure, can no longer be taken for granted today. In the congressional elections of 2018, the Democratic candidate for governor, Andrew Gillum, won in the traditionally republican constituency of Duval County in the north of the state, but did not convince the rest of Florida.
Florida’s demographics and the large African-American and Latin American population in the state would normally suggest a strong democratic advantage in elections. Often, however, the composition of the Florida population turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing for the Democrats – too often the party took the support of its regular electorate in Florida for granted instead of actively seeking their votes. Republicans don’t take a similar risk in Florida these days.
Biden will not have an easy life in Trump’s adopted home
Back in the suburb of Lake Mary, Joe Gruters explains: “I was vice chairman of the Trump campaign team in Florida in 2016. At the time, we had about 62 local employees at the height of the campaign. This year it is just under 190. We usually stop held several election campaign events every day across the country. “
Republicans are fighting for Florida as if Donald Trump’s presidency depended directly on the state. You could well be right. In his adopted country, the president will be hard to beat this year.
This article appeared in the USA section in the print edition of the “Economist” on October 3, 2020 under the heading “Why Donald Trump is doing surprisingly well in Florida” and was translated from English by Lukas Wahden.