MIAMI — Signs that Jewish voters in Florida are turning out to vote in large numbers are raising hopes in Joe Biden's campaign that the former vice president can effectively end the 2020 race on election night with a decisive victory in the state.
Based on recent polling, mail-in ballot returns and early voting numbers in South Florida's largest Jewish communities, Biden campaign officials are increasingly optimistic they will outperform 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton with this voting bloc. Florida's Jewish voters, largely an older population, are primarily motivated to vote this year by concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Even a marginal shift among Jewish voters, who make up roughly 5% of Florida's electorate, could tip the balance in a state where election margins are historically tight and Biden and President Donald Trump are just about tied in the polls.
Biden has said in recent days that a decisive victory in Florida would all but end the national race, closing off most viable paths for Trump to reach the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.
"There has been a big fight for the Jewish vote in Florida — there's been a real battle, and nobody could say for certain how that battle's going to turn out," said Mark Mellman, president of the Democratic Majority for Israel, a lobbying group running ads for Biden targeting Florida voters. "When you have a significant Jewish community in the state, the difference between doing well and poorly in the Jewish vote could be the difference between winning and losing."
One Biden campaign official noted that return rates for mail-in ballots have been high so far in Broward, one of the state's most populous counties, and in Palm Beach County — "the two largest communities in Florida for Jewish voters."
Rep. Lois Frankel, a Democrat representing much of Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, said that turnout was already "through the roof" in her district, which is more than 15% Jewish. "We've had over 156,000 already voted, and 90,000 of them are Democrats, 32,000-plus are Republican and the rest are no party. So that is a very large number of people who've already voted, probably more than half that we expect to show up," she said.
Through Wednesday evening, 4.25 million Floridians had voted, according to state data. About 45% of votes were cast by Democrats, 34% by Republicans and 19% by independents.
In Broward County, Florida's bluest, 225,000 Democrats have voted already, compared with 72,000 Republicans and 78,000 independents. In Miami-Dade County, 197,000 Democrats, 123,000 Republicans and 102,000 independent voters have cast ballots in person and by mail.
A poll released this week found Biden performing better among Florida Jews than Clinton did in the same poll four years ago, with 73% favoring Biden compared with 67% supporting Clinton at this point in 2016. Trump's support appeared statistically stable at 22%.