Joe Biden woos a key Trump bloc: Cuban-American voters in Florida

  • Joe Biden went to Little Havana in Miami to make his case to Cuban-American voters, a community that has traditionally supported Republicans for president. 
  • "Cuba is no closer to freedom and democracy than it was four years ago," said Biden.
  • Biden faces a huge deficit among Cuban-Americans, partly due to a massive effort by the Trump campaign to paint Biden as a socialist.

WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden traveled to the heart of the Cuban-American diaspora on Monday, to the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, to make his case to a community of voters who have traditionally supported Republicans for president. 

"Cuba is no closer to freedom and democracy than it was four years ago. In fact, there's more political prisoners, the secret police are as brutal as ever, and Russia is once again a major presence in Cuba," Biden said during a speech at the Jose Marti community gym before a small crowd of socially distanced supporters and journalists. 

"For my entire career, I stood for democracy and human rights, for freedom of the press, assembly and religion against dictators of the left and the right," he said.  

President Donald Trump has made his administration's hardline approach to Cuba a central piece of his foreign policy, reversing Obama-era policies that had allowed limited travel and trade with the island to resume after decades of embargoes. 

Biden also addressed the twin political and humanitarian crises in Venezuela, which is under the rule of autocratic socialist President Nicolas Maduro. Biden pledged that if he is elected in November, he will immediately grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan immigrants and refugees in the United States. 

Trump has also made much of his opposition to Maduro, but he has not embraced TPS for Venezuelans already living in the United States. 

Less than a month from Election Day, polls show Biden faces an uphill climb in his effort to win over Cuban-Americans in this critical battleground state.  

According to a major poll released Friday by Florida International University, 59% of Cuban-Americans in South Florida plan to vote for Trump this year, while only 25% said they would vote for Biden. Another 16% were undecided or didn't plan to support either candidate.

Nationwide, Biden leads Trump by an average of 8.5 points, and the former vice president leads in Florida by an average of 4 points. Biden also holds a significant advantage among Hispanic voters nationwide: A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed the president trailing Biden by more than 35 points among Hispanic voters, with 26% support to Biden's 62%. 

Biden's deficit among Cuban-Americans is due in part to a massive effort by the Trump campaign and Republicans more generally to paint Biden as a socialist. It is a false allegation, but it is one that resonates with a community founded by tens of thousands of Cubans who fled Communism in the last century. 

Below is an ad by the Trump campaign in Spanish that directly ties progressivism to socialism using historical footage of Latin American autocrats. 

In addition to speaking directly about Cuba and Venezuela, Biden also appeared to soften his policy of not attacking Trump while the president was in the hospital being treated for Covid-19. Shortly before Biden spoke Monday, Trump announced that he would be discharged from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center later that day. 

"I was glad to see the president speaking and recording videos over the weekend," Biden said. "And now that he's busy tweeting campaign messages, I would ask him to do this: Listen to the scientists. Support masks. Support a mask mandate nationwide. Require masks in every federal building and facility." 

Biden also noted that in the 72 hours since Trump checked into Walter Reed on Friday, "more than 100,000 people have been diagnosed with Covid."

Criticism of the president's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been a central theme of Biden's campaign, and polls show that voters overwhelmingly believe that the Trump administration and Trump personally have failed to take the virus seriously or to mobilize sufficient resources and a strategy to fight it. 

Trump's own positive diagnosis last week effectively makes Biden's argument for him, as does the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus within the highest ranks of the White House and the Republican party. 

Following his Little Havana stop, Biden was scheduled to attend a live NBC town hall event in Miami moderated by "Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt. The town hall begins at 8 p.m. ET. 

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