Biden courts Latino voters in 1st trip to Florida as nominee

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Hispanic Heritage Month event, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WILMINGTON, Del. – Joe Biden made his first trip to Florida as the Democratic presidential nominee on Tuesday with an urgent mission to boost support among Latinos who could decide the election in one of the nation's fiercest battleground states.

“More than any other time, the Hispanic community, Latino community holds in the palm of their hand the destiny of this country,” Biden said during a Hispanic Heritage Month kickoff event in Kissimmee. “You can decide the direction of this country.”

A win for Biden in Florida would dramatically narrow Trump’s path to reelection. But in a state where elections are often decided by a percentage point, there are mounting concerns that Biden may be slipping, particularly with the state’s influential Latino voters.

An NBC-Marist poll released last week found Latinos in the state about evenly divided between Biden and Trump. Democrat Hillary Clinton led Trump by a 59% to 36% margin among Latinos in the same poll in 2016 — and Trump won Florida by about 1 percentage point.

To regain lost ground, Biden made the case Tuesday night that he would be a better president for Hispanics than Trump, touting his commitment to immigration reform and a new plan to support Puerto Rico's economy.

“Donald Trump has failed the Hispanic community time and time again, and that's not a secret,” Biden said. “Whether it's in his heinous act of separating children from their families at our border, or his repeated attacks on Dreamers, or his neglect of the people of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, or his repeated failures to make sure essential workers have the personal protective equipment they need.”

Still, Hispanic voters in Florida tend to be somewhat more Republican-leaning than Hispanic voters nationwide because of the state’s Cuban American population. Nationally, little public polling is available to measure the opinions of Latino voters this year and whether they differ from four years ago.

But Democrats aren't taking chances. Billionaire Mike Bloomberg has pledged to spend at least $100 million to defeat Trump in Florida.