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Democrats Lick Their Wounds After Humiliating Florida Defeat

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Perhaps only in Florida is a loss by fewer than 4 percentage points considered a public drubbing.

In a state famous for razor-thin margins, the margin of Joe Biden’s loss to President Donald Trump was humiliating for Democrats and sent many searching for answers to how they failed to close the deal with voters — again.

Democrats zeroed in on two clear explanations.

Biden failed to connect with the state’s Latino voters, performing particularly poorly with Cuban voters in South Florida. Democrats also froze in-person campaigning during the pandemic, a decision that set them back in reaching voters.

“Clearly, Biden was not able to capture the imagination of the Florida electorate and create the type of enthusiasm to go out and vote for Biden like Trump did with his base of supporters in the state,” Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based Democratic pollster, said.

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“It’s an unacceptable record of futility. What makes it so vexing is that the problems that need to be fixed are so apparent. But they just don’t get fixed.”

Biden’s weakness was most evident in Miami-Dade County, which has the state’s largest population of Hispanic voters, particularly Cuban-Americans.

Biden won the county, the state’s most populous, by just 7 percentage points — compared with Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 30-point victory margin four years ago against Trump.

An Associated Press survey of the Florida electorate found Trump won 58 percent of Cuban-American voters statewide, while voters with South American heritage split evenly between Biden and Trump. The survey found Puerto Rican voters backed Biden by about 2 to 1.

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The poor showing in South Florida hurt other Democrats as well, as Republicans defeated two Miami-area congressional incumbents — Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

“When you look at Miami-Dade in particular, there was a lot of advertising on the other side of the aisle dealing with socialism and in some cases even the word communism,” Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist said.

“I think that obviously had an impact,” Crist said. “When you’re attacked you need to fight back. I’m not sure how much of the fighting back occurred on our side.”

While Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, did eventually visit the key battleground state, much of the campaign was conducted virtually because of concerns about the pandemic.

When Republicans resumed going door to door, Democrats remained on the sidelines.

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But the problems predated the pandemic, according to state Sen. Annette Taddeo, who has long been a critic of her party’s approach to campaigning.

“You need a constant presence, and you cannot take minority communities for granted,” she said. “You can’t come in two months before an election and expect to excite these communities.”

Terrie Rizzo, the chair of Florida’s Democratic Party, acknowledged how “our Florida losses sting deep,” adding that “we need to do a deep dive to address data, messaging, and turnout issues that caused these losses, and where our party goes from here.”

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, for one, credits the Trump campaign for generating excitement.

“He won a really significant victory in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

Some Democrats give Republicans credit for registering thousands of new voters and narrowing the voter registration advantage Democrats have long held in Florida.

While more Democrats voted by mail ahead of Tuesday’s election, Republicans also made a quick pivot to turn out more of their voters to cast ballots in person.

While Democrats have long outnumbered Republicans, they have had little to show for it.

In 2016, Clinton narrowly lost to Trump. Two years ago, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum narrowly lost to DeSantis. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson also narrowly lost his bid for reelection.

As it stands, Democrats now only occupy one statewide office — the Commissioner of Agriculture, which is held by Nikki Fried, who is said to be considering a possible run for higher office.


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