Orlando campaign kickoff as Trump targets Florida electoral haul

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump will pull out all the stops Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, when he announces his re-election bid in a state he narrowly won in 2016 and needs again as he tries to reconfigure the electoral map that put him in the White House.

But Democrats are already countering his expected message of a strong economy and tough trade tactics, arguing that Trump's tariffs are hurting middle-class voters and causing battleground states to shed jobs. That's the message the party and many of its 2020 candidates are pushing in hopes of reversing Hillary Clinton's 1-point loss in the Sunshine State three years ago.

They're also banking on turning out voters in an increasingly diverse and booming state. Florida is about 54% white, and has seen an influx of voting-age citizens from nearby Puerto Rico. Latinos make up about 26% of the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Trump won Florida in 2016 with 48% of the vote, winning 64% of white voters and 35% of Latinos, according to the networks' exit polls.

And when Trump hits the stage for the prime-time event in the 20,000-seat Amway Center, home to the NBA's Orlando Magic, he won't exactly be in friendly territory. Clinton won Orange County in 2016, 60% to 35 percent. (Though Trump won nearby Seminole, Brevard, Indian River, Polk and Lake counties.)

It is difficult to construct scenarios for a Trump second term that do not include him winning Florida and its 29 electoral votes.

But polls in key battleground states, including Florida, have shown him trailing the Democratic front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden. In fact, Trump's first internal campaign poll, obtained by ABC News, found the former Delaware senator ahead by 7 points in Florida. Biden has had success in the state before, winning it in 2008 and 2012 as President Barack Obama's running mate.


Trump has stepped up his attacks on Biden in recent days, publicly referring to him as "Sleepy Joe" and insinuating that his delivery on the campaign trail is flat.

The Trump campaign survey, conducted in March, also found Biden ahead in other states that Trump won in 2016 and that he would need again for an Electoral College win. Biden led the president by 16 points in Pennsylvania and 10 points in Wisconsin. In deep-red Texas, he trailed Trump by just 2 points. (The Trump campaign has since reportedly parted ways with some of the pollsters involved.)

In private conversations, White House aides dismiss such polling, saying it is far too early to handicap a race 17 months away. They also cite other polls in Florida and Rust Belt states Trump won three years ago that suggest he is very much in the race, even before he begins campaigning in earnest.

For instance, a Florida Atlantic University poll from last month found the president and Biden at 50% each in Florida. The same survey gave Trump single-digit leads over the other top Democratic contenders -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (2 points), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (4 points), California Sen. Kamala Harris (6 points) and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (4 points).


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