Florida is a must-win state for any presidential hopeful. And with a significant portion of the state’s large Hispanic population made up of exiles from murderous and oppressive socialist dictatorships, any candidate hoping to win would be best served rejecting the failed and totalitarian policies of socialism.
Florida is home to millions of exiles who fled socialist oppression in Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and Nicaragua. Yet the Democrat Party seems to have gone all in on socialism, not only leaning towards it, but openly and enthusiastically embracing it.
That does not play well among a Hispanic electorate that knows firsthand the destruction and death of socialism. The tone deaf Democrats are not only losing support among Florida Hispanics, they are driving them to the GOP.
In Florida, Democrats worry Venezuela policy could drive Latinos to GOP
Helena Poleo couldn’t believe her ears.
The Democratic debates in Miami, which had spanned four long hours over two nights, were over. And no one had even mentioned the crisis in Venezuela.
Candidates made obvious plays for Latino voters, says Ms. Poleo, a communications specialistand Venezuelan immigrant who’ll be voting in the U.S. for the first time in 2020. Onstage, some vowed to decriminalize illegal border crossings and showed off their Spanish-language skills. Many also took time to visit a nearby migrant children’s detention center and denounce the Trump administration’s border policy.
But Florida is home to the nation’s largest Venezuelan population. To Ms. Poleo, the candidates’ failure to address the situation in her home country – where a struggle over the presidency has fueled an economic crisis that’s led to starvation and mass migration – was a stunning disappointment.
“They missed a huge opportunity,” she says.
Ms. Poleo’s view, echoed by political observers, underscores one of the challenges facing Democrats in their bid to secure a larger share of Florida’s Latino electorate in 2020.
It’s true that Hispanic voters lean Democratic, and Mr. Trump’s immigration policies aren’t terribly popular with a majority of them.
Yet the results of recent elections show that the Democratic Party has underperformed in engaging Latino voters here – enough for Republicans to gain an advantage along the margins. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won a smaller majority of Latino voters in Florida than Barack Obama did in 2012 – and she lost the state’s 29 electoral votes to Donald Trump. In 2018, the GOP flipped a U.S. Senate seat and took the governor’s mansion in two very tight, high-profile races that split the Latino vote more narrowly than in other states with big Hispanic populations.
Now, with 2020 on the horizon, both parties are ramping up their efforts in the state, with Republicans looking to build on their recent victories and Democrats laying the groundwork for a new grassroots push. A strong position on Venezuela and its neighbors, coupled with boots-on-the-ground campaigning, could help tip the scales here, political analysts say.
“Foreign policy towards Latin America has always been where the Democrats fall short,” says Ms. Poleo, who runs the Miami-based public relations firm Influence Communications. “This is a huge issue. If we don’t hear the right things from the Democratic candidates, we’re going to swallow a bitter pill and vote for Trump – or not vote at all.”
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