TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As Democrats continue their fight to be the next presidential nominee on the debate stage, the battle between the parties to grab Florida is underway on the ground.
It’s almost impossible for a candidate to take the White House without the state’s 29 electoral votes.
Democrats are hungry for a win after losing the state in 2016, and the governor’s race by a narrow margin of around 33,000 votes in 2018.
“What the Democrats stand for is what people actually want,” said Steve Been, who does community engagement efforts for the Leon County Democrats. “If we can just do the work — we can win.”
That work is being orchestrated on all levels of the party from national to local ahead of the 2020 general election. Getting people registered to vote and to the polls is a major focus. That’s after midterm turnout wasn’t enough.
“About 62%, which is the highest in many many years for a midterm,” said Leon County Democrats Vice Chair John Hedrick. “It’s just the Republicans turned out even higher.”
This time, Democrats have a statewide registration effort in place, the support of political action groups. Former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum jumping in too, leading an effort to get 1-million registered ahead of the general election.
Republicans, meanwhile, are pulling out the big guns. Besides an extensive local GOP presence already in place, the state has gotten a lot of attention from the White House. The president not only launched his re-election in Orlando, he’s visited Florida more than any other state during his term, and ensured disaster dollars flowed following hurricanes.
Beyond that, the party is working hard to maintain a solid portion of the state’s Hispanic vote.
“Trump pulled in about 35% of the Hispanic vote in 2016,” said Caroline Melear, the Palm Beach County Young Republicans President. “My understanding — he’ll need to carry at least that and hopefully get some more in 2020. It’s a big part of our electorate here.”
While pundits expect things to tighten, especially in swing states like Florida, recent polling shows Trump trailing the Democratic front runners, nationally.
“I’m not going to go overboard and say it’s a slam dunk,” Hedrick said. “No, it’s not. We take that attitude we stand to get setup for another defeat. We don’t want another defeat.”