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Donald Trump Is in Trouble in the “Must-Win” State of Florida, and It’s Largely Because of Latino Voters

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Less than one week before the election, two things are becoming clear: 1) Donald Trump cannot win the presidency unless he wins Florida; and 2) if Trump loses Florida it will be because Latino voters have played a decisive role.

In other words, Trump is in trouble. With approximately half of the likely Florida electorate already having voted, the evidence is mounting that Florida’s diverse Latino electorate is energized and voting overwhelmingly against Donald Trump.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Arian Campo-Flores writes how Miami-Dade County is trending Democratic, in large part because of Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and extremist positions regarding Latinos and immigration:

“The biggest county in the nation’s biggest swing state, it supplied President Barack Obama with a lead of more than 200,000 votes in 2012, an important boost in a state he carried by fewer than 75,000.

To blunt the Democrats’ edge, Republicans need to attract more of the county’s many Hispanic voters, such as 36-year-old Diego Vásquez. But GOP nominee Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and shifts within the Latino electorate are making that task more difficult. The results from the Nov. 8 election will indicate how much more difficult.

Mr. Vásquez is a registered Republican, but he twice voted for Mr. Obama. Mr. Trump’s incendiary remarks about immigrants threaten to cement his unhappiness with the GOP. ‘Immigrants don’t come here to destroy,’ Mr. Vásquez said. ‘We come here to struggle, to get ahead.’

Mr. Vásquez, a naturalized citizen from Colombia, is a testament to the changing face of the electorate in Miami-Dade, where 67% of residents are Hispanic. Once dominated by conservative Cuban-Americans, the Hispanic community has turned more Democratic as young voters of Cuban heritage come of age and new waves of immigrants arrive.

An October survey by polling firm Bendixen & Amandi International showed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton ahead of Mr. Trump by 30 percentage points in the county. Statewide, Mrs. Clinton is in a dead heat with Mr. Trump. In 2000, Democratic nominee Al Gore won Miami-Dade County by 6 percentage points; Mr. Obama won it by 24 points in 2012.”

Writing in the Miami Herald, Fabiola Santiago looks at how Puerto Rican voters in the Central Florida I-4 corridor are transforming Florida politics:

“More than a million strong along the I-4 corridor that runs from Tampa to Daytona Beach, according to the CUNY Center for Puerto Rican Studies, these Hispanics are American citizens and can register to vote as soon as they arrive. Instant voters. And an October Latino Decisions poll concluded that 74 percent of Puerto Rican voters favored Clinton.

… If Puerto Ricans turn out to vote in large numbers in this election, they could help deliver Florida to Hillary Clinton and help make history. President Obama won Florida by a narrow margin in 2012 after a similar expansion of the electorate. That’s why it took a court challenge to get Florida Gov. Rick Scott to extend the deadline for registration after Hurricane Matthew interrupted the efforts.

Could Democratic Puerto Ricans replace Republican Cuban Americans in Miami as the most influential Hispanic group in presidential races in the swing state? Not likely, not yet — and definitely not at all if they don’t act on their U.S. citizenship rights and turn out to vote. But they can form a powerful voting bloc in Florida along with the growing number of Cuban-American Democrats and Republicans who’ve vowed #NeverTrump.

There’s a popular saying in the Caribbean, a line from a poem by Lola Rodríguez de Tió, who was born in a southwest Puerto Rico town and died in Havana: ‘Cuba y Puerto Rico son de un pájaro las dos alas.’ Cuba and Puerto Rico are the two wings of a bird. In Florida, that should worry those who belittle Hispanics.”

And Florida elections guru Steve Schale assesses the state of the race in Florida with five days out, noting that Latino voters are energized in counties throughout the state, not just in the traditionally Cuban-American South Florida region:

“Part of what makes such a great place to work is it is ever changing. You can never say you “know Florida,” because just when you think you figure it out, something changes. And in 2016, we are seeing two pretty big changes: the real rise of NPA [No Party Affiliation] voters, and the rise of Hispanics – and actually, the two are pretty intertwined.

…It was a very good day for Democrats in Hillsborough…There is a Hispanic surge happening here. 26% of Hispanic voters so far have no voting history, compared to 13% for both whites and blacks. What is interesting about Hillsborough is while it is known for its Cuban roots, it is actually home to the largest populations of Mexicans in the state, a demographic that has begun to change the county’s politics.”

Schale notes about Metro Orlando:

“It is easy to think about what is happening politically in Central Florida as an Orlando phenomenon, but the demographic shifts that have occurred in the region really spread out over the three county metro Orlando area (Seminole, Orange and Osceola) … No place is more stark than Osceola County, a place that Bush won by 5 in 2004, but Obama won by 24 just 8 years later. That, my friends, is what Puerto Rican growth is doing to politics … So to that point, let’s dig a bit deeper. In Orange County, 29% of Hispanics who have voted were first-time voters. In Osceola, it is 31%. 55% of Orange County Hispanics have voted in no more than 1 of the last 3 elections, a number that rises to 59% in Osceola. And many are registering NPA, not Democratic, which is why it is significant that yesterday, on the biggest day in early voting in Orange County, 72% of voters were Dem and NPA.”