President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are looking to win Florida as the election draws closer. Several locations throughout the state will play key roles in determining who comes out on top in November.
Last month, the president retweeted a video from a resident shouting “white power” at The Villages northwest of Orlando. Next month, the most important parts of the Republican National Convention will be held in Jacksonville. And in October, the second presidential debate will be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.
All of this is taking place in a state that has become the new epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Does all this aid Trump, who won the state in 2016, or give Biden the edge to flip it blue?
“Honestly, I don’t know yet,” said Alex Soto, 22, a Miami resident and Republican who didn’t cast a ballot in 2016. “I’m probably going to vote for Trump.”
He is strongly considering Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen. “Between [Trump & Jorgensen] I would rather have Jo,” he said. “But, I know she has no chance of winning.”
Soto believes the debates will have a strong influence on Florida voters since they’ll be televised.
“I believe that Miami voters are gullible,” he said. “The people that I’ve spoken to make their opinions based on what they see on television. . . That will be important, especially in Miami.”
Miami-Dade County voted 60% for Hillary Clinton in 2016. If young voters show up this election cycle, Soto believes they could give Biden the state’s 29 electoral votes.
“The only reason I’d believe that Biden has a chance is because of the young voting population,” he said, but adds they probably won’t show up on election day. “Flip blue, I don’t see that happening. I think Trump actually has more support now than he had back in his first election.”
According to Forbes, Trump was at 31% approval among voters in the 18 to 29 age range last month while Biden reached his highest approval rating at 60%.
In Florida, the polls mostly show Biden leading Trump by a significant margin. According to RealClearPolitics, their average compiling several polls are showing Biden leading Trump by five points in Florida; 48 to 43. A Trafalgar poll for July is showing both candidates tied at 46 points.
Then there is ICE’s decision last week to deport international students who are unable to take classes in person due to universities shutting down because of COVID-19. It was poorly received in Miami, which is home to a rich and vast population of immigrants; Cuban-Americans and Latinos.
International students from all over the world in South Florida are feeling the emotional toll of this new decision. “I don’t know what to do. I feel powerless,” an international student from Vietnam told The Miami Herald.
After receiving public backlash and lawsuits from Harvard and MIT, the Trump administration announced yesterday that it will be rescinding ICE’s ruling and will allow international students to stay in the U.S.
Moreover, recent comments attributed to Katie Miller, Vice President Pence’s communications director and former spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, in NBC reporter Jacob Soboroff’s new book, specifically targets Cuban-Americans.
Soboroff’s book states that Miller said “I believe that if you come to America, you should assimilate. Why do we need to have Little Havana?”
Little Havana is home to Cuban exiles who fled Cuba during Castro’s regime. In response to Miller’s comments in Soboroff’s book, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnny in a briefing last Wednesday, painted Trump in a positive light in regards to the Cuban community in South Florida.
Press Sec. Kayleigh McEnany: “There’s no greater ally of the Cuban community than President Trump — He loves the Cuban community, he moved his residence down to South Florida.” pic.twitter.com/5JJDLNMZbA
— The Hill (@thehill) July 9, 2020
There has also been disapproval in areas of Florida that are solidified as Trump safe spots, notably up North. Trump’s influence in Jacksonville was impactful during the 2016 election.
Jacksonville has seen its share of criticism with Mayor Lenny Curry’s decision to host the RNC. It was previously scheduled in Charlotte, North Carolina, but Trump wanted it to be moved to a location where COVID-19 restrictions wouldn’t impede turnout.
Richard Borders, a Jacksonville community member, created a petition on Change.org to amplify his disdain for having the RNC in his hometown. Currently, the petition has over 20,000 signatures.
A recent poll done by the University of North Florida found that 58% of the residents surveyed strongly disapprove of the decision to host the RNC in Jacksonville. Most of the concerns given by pollsters were the continual spread of COVID-19 and protests that might occur in the city.
On June 29, the city of Jacksonville issued a mask mandate due to the severe cases of COVID-19 being reported. Various doctors are urging the mayor to postpone or cut down the size of guests at the planned event — an issue Trump wanted to avoid.
Magyanis Ruiz, 22, a resident of Jacksonville and registered Democrat, expressed her disapproval of having the RNC being hosted in Jacksonville.
“I was really just upset, not just because of the fact that it was the RNC. . . but also the fact that we’re in a global pandemic,” said Ruiz. “It’s like at this point they don’t care about anyone’s safety, especially making goers sign waivers that if they test positive they can’t sue the committee or the administration.”
Ruiz believes that the state will flip blue based on the importance that young voters will have in this election and the debates being held in Miami.
“From what I’ve noticed in Miami, a lot of the younger generation are finally putting their foot down across Florida especially with everything that’s going on,” she said. “If the current President of the U.S. keeps up with his track record at this debate, hopefully it’ll be the wake-up call for others, especially him coming to our bubble of a city.”
In an informal, unscientific SFMN poll of 35 people, 24 said they believe the debates in Miami will have an impact on voters in Florida; 11 said they believe it will not. In the same poll, the votes were split as to whether Florida will flip blue or stay red.
There are four months left until the election. COVID-19, mass protests and a revolving door of jobs opening and closing are also obstacles to be considered as voters decide who will be the 46th president of the United States on November 3.