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Biden to woo Florida base after appeals to crossover voters

The Palm Beach Post logo The Palm Beach Post 10/13/2020 Antonio Fins and Wendy Rhodes, Palm Beach Post
a person standing in front of a car: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden leaves the Queen Theater after a virtual town hall, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) © Andrew Harnik, AP Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden leaves the Queen Theater after a virtual town hall, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

With 20 days to go until votes are counted in Florida, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will appeal to a core constituency in deep blue Broward County on Tuesday.

During appearances in Pembroke Pines and Miramar, two diverse cities in the Democratic stronghold county, the former vice president will seek support from traditional party voters, such as seniors.

A former senior Biden adviser said that with mail-in ballots coming in and less than a week to go before early voting, it's time to focus on driving out the base in South Florida.

"Democrats have to run up the score in those coastal South Florida counties," said Moe Vela, who also advised Al Gore in his 2000 presidential bid. "We're in the homestretch, it's time to go and run up the score in your base to offset the rural areas and the northern part of Florida. This is the same playbook for every Democrat in every statewide race."

The Biden camp did not release specific details about what's in store for that event other than to say he will present his "vision for older Americans." Biden and Democrats have heavily criticized President Trump's vow to end payroll taxes, which directly fund Social Security and Medicare, saying doing so would bankrupt the entitlement programs and cause financial instability for retired Americans.

The campaign said Monday that 4.7 million Floridians rely on Social Security and that Biden seeks to expand benefits. The plan includes putting Social Security on a path to long-run solvency, providing a higher benefit for the oldest Americans and implementing a "true minimum benefit for lifelong workers."

More: Joe Biden kicks off Florida push as Trump sidelined by COVID

A Republican political analyst and commentator said Biden's intense focus on the state is an effort to close the deal in Florida.

"If you don't win Florida, you don't win, as a Republican," said Miami-based GOP strategist Gianno Caldwell. "That's part of the reason why Joe Biden has been trying to make some effort here. I don't think he is going to win here, but he certainly has come out."

Broad and enthusiastic voter turnout in Broward County and southern Palm Beach County, political analysts have long said, are critical for any Democrat to win a statewide race in Florida. The overwhelmingly blue counties must yield enough votes to overpower GOP strength in rural and conservative Florida.

However, Biden's two previous campaign swings in the Sunshine State were aimed at courting potential crossover voters, including military veterans. The Biden team has also made a push to woo conservative retirees in The Villages south of Ocala.

More: Election Countdown: Seven takeaways from Joe Biden Miami town hall

Biden's tour of southern Broward County follows Trump's speech in Sanford on Monday night and precedes Vice President Mike Pence's appearance in Pensacola on Wednesday.

Biden's visit is the third to the state since Labor Day. In September, he appealed to military veterans in Tampa and attended a Hispanic Heritage festival in the Orlando area.

a car parked in a parking lot: Supporters gather at a Biden rally in Boca Raton on Oct. 5. © Wendy Rhodes Supporters gather at a Biden rally in Boca Raton on Oct. 5.

Last week, Biden campaigned in Miami's Little Haiti and Little Havana neighborhoods before speaking at a televised town hall in downtown Miami. As Biden answered questions from undecided voters, his wife Jill Biden attended at a Florida Women for Biden drive-in rally in Boca Raton.

Vela said he believes Biden will win the Sunshine State.

"There is no doubt about it that Joe Biden can win Florida, and will win Florida," he said. "Seniors are breaking his way, suburban women are breaking his way and Latinos are breaking his way, three of Florida's biggest constituencies."

Vela added that Trump's post-coronavirus rally in Sanford on Monday night will help make the case for a Biden presidency.

"Vice President Biden doesn't have to do much to keep the pandemic out front of the voters in Florida," he said. "Every single minute of our day, every citizen in this country is confronted with the limitations, the lack of freedom, the mask wearing, the social distancing. We don't need a lot of help to be reminded of the miserable state of our daily lives as a result of the ineptitude of Donald Trump."

Ahead of Tuesday's visit, Florida Democratic Party officials held an online forum with local officials who spoke of their personal trials with COVID-19. The event was billed as an opportunity to highlight what Democrats say are the Trump administration's coronavirus failures.

It's a topic polls have said is a decisive issue for senior voters in Florida, who are at highest risk for the virus and equally isolated from loved ones by required social distancing measures. Surveys have shown that these voters disapprove of Trump's handling of the pandemic, and even distrust what he says about the virus.

During the virtual discussion, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay spoke about how her aunt in Texas fell sick with the virus and had to learn to walk, talk, and eat again. 

"President Trump could have come out sand said this virus is dangerous, don’t take your chances, it could impact people you love,” McKinlay said.

Miami Gardens Councilwoman Katrina Wilson said she her sister died from the virus after 45 days of fighting the infection.

“My sister died because this president lied," Wilson said, telling those watching that her sibling had had a kidney transplant almost a year ago and was quarantining due to her condition. "He lied to her, he lied to us, he lied to this country.”

Caldwell, who hosts the iHeartRadio podcast Outloud with Gianno Caldwell, said Trump's task is to change the narrative from coronavirus.

"There are some people who are a little bit more motivated to vote for Biden in all places, including Florida, because of COVID-19," Caldwell said, adding that the pandemic also highlights what people see in Trump's lack of empathy.

"That's the trait of a great leader, to show empathy to people and President Trump oftentimes lacks that empathy," Caldwell said. 

But Caldwell also said he believes that Trump's base in Florida is large enough to carry him to victory in the state. And he said Trump will rally voters by hammering away on the issues that motivate his base.

One of those is taxes, he said.

"By getting rid of the Trump tax cut, you're raising everyone's taxes, Caldwell said. "Absolutely everyone will get a tax hike under Joe Biden."

Another winner for Trump is to continuously point out Biden's 47 years in the government establishment.

"People fed up with the establishment politics," he said. "People often consider Trump a bodyguard for the American people, who often times is rough, not always says the right things, who isn't the smartest guy you ever met in the room, but someone who can get the job done." 

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Biden to woo Florida base after appeals to crossover voters

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