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Florida's presidential primary starts sooner than you think

David Smiley, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

She's also building a stable of volunteers, some of whom spent a recent Saturday going door-to-door in Little Havana.

Nicholas Dore, Warren's 20-year-old volunteer director in Miami-Dade County, passed out sugar cookies baked by his grandmother and decorated with white icing and a blue "W" on top. "We're just letting them know the campaign is down here, and we're interested in listening to you," he told a reporter.

They have work to do. As Dore walked down Southwest Eighth Street, another volunteer texted him an update: "Spanish monolingual voters generally had no idea about the primary, so great (education) opportunity there."

Meanwhile, the Florida Democratic Party and other organizations plan to continue promoting mail voting until the Feb. 1 deadline to request a mailed ballot -- meaning the number of mail ballots will continue to rise. The deadline to register to vote in Florida's closed primaries is Feb. 18. Republicans also hold their primary on March 17.

Christian Ulvert, a senior adviser last year on the Democratic gubernatorial campaign of former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, expects voters to cast early ballots based on who gets a bump in the early states. And that increases the importance of having some sort of campaign already running in Florida, to encourage voters to fill out mail ballots and lock in those votes in case things change, he said.

"It's not just about the candidates. It's about who's starting to build an organization," said Ulvert. "On Nov. 6, we'll be 90 days from the Florida primary beginning. That's not widely digested yet."

The campaigns are aware and making difficult decisions, knowing that if they invest too early in Florida, they could build an operation that they'll never get a chance to use -- like Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the Republican primary in 2016 before the race even got to Florida.

Buttigieg, who will return to South Florida on Nov. 14, is building his volunteer base and relying on Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky and 2018 attorney general candidate Sean Shaw, from Tampa, to help drum up support.


Biden, whose campaign also includes paid Florida fundraisers and staffers from Florida, has paid several visits to the state, mostly holding private fundraisers.

Chuck Rocha, a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign, said the self-described democratic socialist candidate believes good performances in Iowa and New Hampshire will be more valuable than any commercial the Sanders campaign might run in Florida. But he also said mail voting in Florida and California "emphasizes the importance of fundraising to be able to expand operations well beyond the first two or three states."

"With Florida's vote-by-mail, and California's dropping on the first day of the caucuses, it just changes everything," he said.

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