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How Democrats plan to win the White House by fighting Trump — and doubt — in Florida

David Smiley and Steve Contorno, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

The state party and DNC hold outsized roles in Florida right now, given the discrepancy between its importance in the general election and the primary, in which Florida voters will choose their candidate after Super Tuesday. On Saturday, when the party held its gala, none of the major presidential candidates attended. Many were in Iowa, an early primary state. Some sent their spouses.

Trump, on the other hand, is highly focused on Florida, where he first rolled out his reelection campaign only one month after being sworn in and will return next week for a re-launch. His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, practically lived in the state last month, and said Florida is likely the place where the campaign will roll out its outreach effort to Hispanic voters -- another battleground demographic where Democrats are trying to win back votes.

Republicans have also significantly out-raised Democrats on both the state and national level, and are humming in Florida under the leadership of new governor DeSantis. They continue to tout their expansive digital operation, although new DNC finance chairman and Coral Gables attorney Chris Korge recently told the Miami Herald that he's both confident that the party will hit its financial goals and impressed at how much the DNC has improved its own data operation.

Outreach to people of color

Penalosa, the executive director of the FDP, stressed in Orlando over the weekend that the party is spending $2 million on outreach and advertising to voters of color in the off year, ahead of 2020. The party has launched an ad campaign in black-owned newspapers and has for the first time hired a Spanish media director who is helping to book Democrats on Spanish-language TV and radio, create programming, and coordinate messaging in Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Puerto Rico.

"We've never really done that in a concerted way in the party, build a stable. We're doing that media market by media market," said Penalosa. "We're identifying folks with real stories who speak Spanish to talk about what this administration has done to affect their lives."

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The party has reason to invest. Perez said a DNC analysis recently showed that there are 400,000 "unregistered Latino voters in Florida who are likely Democrats." Democrats are also vulnerable. This fall, DeSantis performed significantly better than Trump in heavily Cuban and Venezuelan precincts, and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott far outperformed Trump with Puerto Rican voters.

Trump remains overwhelmingly unpopular with Hispanic voters and has continued to amp up his immigration rhetoric. But he only needs to do marginally better with the demographic in order to be successful. This year, he's gone on an aggressive campaign courting Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan voters in South Florida by taking a heavy hand against leftist regimes in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, a recent national survey of 1,000 Latino voters by Trump's polling firm, McLaughlin & Associates, found that the president has room for growth among Hispanic voters and that a Republican branding campaign to label all Democrats as socialists has the ability to hurt Democrats with a key constituency.

"We need to take this socialism thing head-on," Perez said Saturday as he spoke to a group of Democrats who'd gathered to hear the FDP's Spanish-media director talk about the party's Spanish-media coordination efforts. "Understand that in our community it actually could have traction unless we really take it on."

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