Few observers of American politics will be surprised to learn that recent opinion polls show a tightening of the presidential race in Florida.
This crucial swing state is accustomed to dramatic electoral conflicts, the result of its extreme political polarization.
With the Florida vote often divided almost exactly in half between Democrats and Republicans, election results may depend on small variations in support for either candidate among the multiple groups of the large and diverse electorate in the United States. ‘State.
This year, three of these groups are getting particular attention. Voting patterns among Cuban Americans, the elderly and former criminals may well define who wins in Florida and have a disproportionate influence on who will be in the White House next year.
1. Trump moves forward with the Miami Cubans
Many residents of Miami, Florida’s largest metropolitan area, will have noticed a recent increase in the number of Spanish-language advertisements of Joe Biden’s campaign appearing on their computer or television screens.
The barrage of Democratic ads is part of a late-game push to win Hispanic votes in this part of the state. But for some observers, this effort appears too weak, too late.
“This is something Democrats should have done months and years ago, not a few days ago,” Miami pollster and Democratic strategist Fernand Amandi told the BBC.
A survey released in early September by his company, Bendixen & Amandi, shows that President Donald Trump’s campaign is making inroads among citizens of Cuban descent, who make up about a third of the population of Miami-Dade County.
According to the poll, 68% of Cuban Americans in Miami say they would vote in 2020 for the president and only 30% for Biden. In 2012, almost half of their votes went to Barack Obama and in 2016, 41% of them voted for Hillary Clinton.
Polls still show Biden’s overall advantage in Miami-Dade County. The Bendixen-Amandi survey presents him as being ahead of Trump by 55% to 38%.
But Amandi points out that Biden can’t afford to just win in Miami. He needs to win big. A narrow margin in Biden’s favor here means Trump would need a lesser advantage in the state’s rural, majority-Republican north to secure an overall victory in Florida. So conceding even a few Miami Latino votes to Miami can become a big deal for Biden.
Some might be surprised at Trump’s stance with Latinos here, especially after his controversial statements about Mexican undocumented immigrants. In fact, Cuban Americans have tended to vote Republican since the 1960s, an outlier among the predominantly Democratic American Hispanic vote.
Trump has also waged a fierce campaign in this region, frequently meeting with Cuban-American leaders. Many of those voters, whose family histories were defined by their flight from Communist Cuba, were moved by the Trump campaign’s characterization of Democrats as radical left-wing extremists.
“The campaign of fear they are doing around socialism and accusing all Democrats of being quasi-communists is apparently having an impact,” Amandi told the BBC.
Florida’s nearly 5.8 million-strong Hispanic community is diverse on its own. Democrats are hopeful that in the future a growing Puerto Rican community in Orlando could counter the Cuban Republican stronghold in Miami.
But of Florida’s more than one million Puerto Ricans, most are relatively recent arrivals to the Americas, and many still show little allegiance to Democrats or Republicans.
2. The pandemic can convince the elderly to support Biden
Nearly 20% of Floridians are 65 or older, according to the US Census Bureau. Maine is the only state with more seniors as a percentage of the total population.
GOP presidential candidates often campaign in places like The Villages, a sprawling and affluent retirement community near Orlando, where they have traditionally been warmly welcomed.
This summer, however, local media reported stories of Biden supporters staging golf cart parades to rival campaign events traditionally staged by their Republican rivals in the villages.
Polls suggest the pandemic and the way the Trump administration has responded to the emergency could erode the Republican’s standing among older voters.
An NBC / Marist poll released on September 8 showed Biden beating Trump 49% to 48% among Florida seniors.
Polls at the end of 2016 showed that Trump won that age group by 57% to 40%.
3. Convicts who vote for the first time could help Democrats
On September 11, a federal appeals court ruling made it harder, if not impossible, for many of Florida’s 1.4 million former criminals to vote in the November election.
The judicial decision has powerful electoral consequences in this state.
“A lot of these former criminals are African Americans – about 90% of the time African Americans join the Democratic Party and vote for Democratic candidates,” Professor Kathryn DePalo-Gould, an expert, told the BBC. from Florida International University in Miami. interview last March.
Until 2018, Florida was one of the few states that imposed lifelong voting bans on criminals. A statewide referendum that year overturned the ban.
But soon after, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a bill adding that in order to vote former criminals had to first pay any monetary obligations imposed as part of their sentences, which could reach thousands of dollars.
Despite earlier legal challenges from civil rights groups, the 9/11 appeals court ruling ruled the measure would remain in effect.
Democrats could now get the votes of many ex-criminals who manage to meet their monetary obligations by November, but quite possibly many fewer than they anticipated.