‘What do we do?’: Trump gains rattle Miami Dems

Otaola told POLITICO that Trump is proving relatively popular with Latinos in the county because he is “synonymous with prosperity and success. We are tired of politicians who say the right thing and do the wrong thing. And we have changed to whoever speaks the wrong thing; but does the right thing.”

Carlos Odio, who heads the Democratic Latino research firm Equis Labs, said he learned of Otaola organically in a focus group studying Hispanic voters, where a participant brought up his conservative messaging.

Odio calculated this summer that Trump, who had lost Cuban-American support in 2016 relative to other Republicans, made up so much lost ground since then that, if the 2016 election were held under current conditions, he would’ve added 90,000 net votes to his total statewide margin of 112,911 over Clinton.

“Part of that is the olds coming back to Trump,” Odio said. “The other part is the growth of these recent arrivals. That part is Otaola. If he did not exist, I don’t know if you would see the swing the same way.”

In a recent statewide poll of Florida, Odio found that Biden had made up some lost ground with Cuban-Americans. But, relative to Clinton in 2016, he was still trailing her margins, partly a function of being relatively unknown with a large segment of Florida’s broad, dynamic Hispanic community that consists of people with roots throughout Latin America, although voters with roots in Cuba and Puerto Rico account for more than half of the Latino vote in the state.

In a poll of likely Miami-Dade voters by Bendixen & Amandi International released Tuesday for The Miami Herald, Biden led Trump by 17 points, a margin that gives Democrats shivers in a county that Clinton carried by nearly 30 points. Pollster Fernand Amandi found that Trump was winning Cuban-American voters 68-32 percent while Biden was carrying what are called non-Cuban Hispanics 58-30 percent.

A Democratic survey conducted in the county by veteran pollster Tom Eldon and shared with POLITICO found Biden doing better with non-Cuban Hispanics, winning them 62-32 percent and losing Cuban-Americans by 61-33 percent, according to a memo from Ulvert.

Amandi, whose firm was a lead consultant for Obama’s Hispanic voter research and messaging in 2008 and 2012 said it’s a warning sign for Biden.

“There’s no path to victory for Trump in Miami-Dade, but there’s a path to manage Miami-Dade margins, which could allow Trump to carry Florida by minimizing his losses here,” Amandi said, adding that Biden has an advantage that Clinton didn’t: he’s pulling more white voters elsewhere in the state, and they’re a supermajority of Florida’s electorate.

“If Biden overperforms with white voters in Florida, it doesn’t matter how much he underperforms with Hispanic voters,” Amandi said.

Evelyn Perez-Verdia, a Democratic political consultant and Spanish-language media commentator in South Florida, blamed much of Biden’s standing Latino voters on a “massive disinformation campaign in Spanish in Florida.”

“I get WhatsApp videos from every single person I know calling Democrats socialists,” she said. “And they go into this dark side about how Democrats support things like ISIS. It’s totally crazy. They’re using fear and, unfortunately, fear can work.”

The socialism attack, which Florida Democrats say they ignored to their peril in 2018 elections, has particular salience among Cuban-Americans, but also is utilized to persuade voters with roots in Venezuela, Colombia and Nicaragua.

It’s a substantive messaging point in two Florida state Senate races, two South Florida congressional contests to unseat Democratic incumbents and the county mayor’s race. Republican consultant David Custin, who is advising the competitive Miami-Dade mayor’s race, said Democrats are deluding themselves when it comes to how far left their party has moved and don’t realize how much Hispanic voters in the state are turned off by that.

“Look at what happened to the Democratic Party: you had a Kennedy who just lost a Democratic primary in Massachusetts because he wasn’t liberal enough,” Custin said. “The Democratic Party has changed.”

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