On one side of the sidewalk on Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard there is a lot of noise and screaming, supporters of Donald Trump have positioned themselves to show their support for the president. In front, another group with posters in favor of the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, is barely heard and only seems to react to the mobilization on the other side. Trump and Biden have visited Florida this week and both their campaign rallies and the actions of their followers show two opposing campaign styles: the Republican clinging to mobilizing the crowds despite the coronavirus pandemic and the Democrat focused on meetings with small groups almost going unnoticed in the places you visit.
The battle for the vote has been concentrated in Florida in recent days. Trump has traveled to the southern state twice in the same week and Biden, with surgical precision, has held events here up to three times in the last month. Florida is one of the most important pendulum states in these elections: it has 29 of the 270 electoral votes that either of the two candidates needs to become president of the United States. Early voting in person in the State will begin next Monday; so far some two million people have already sent their vote by mail, more than double the number four years ago. It is clear why it is Florida where the candidates are concentrating much of the face-to-face events of their campaigns.
Biden was in Broward County, north of Miami, on Wednesday, visiting a retirement home. His team kept the location of the event a secret, invited only a few dozen people and blocked the entrance to followers of the Democrat who, through social networks, managed to decipher the candidate’s route. Eugene Pérez, a 59-year-old former cruise ship worker, learned from a neighbor that Biden would be arriving at the Pembroke Pines residence any minute. “I live next door and it’s very exciting that Biden is here. Donald Trump is desperate for votes because he knows Biden is beating him, ”he says. “Do you think he’s going to come out to greet us?” Pérez asked the group of about 15 people who came to hang around the democrat’s act.
Biden summed it up in a rally that participants followed from their cars: “If we win Florida, then this is settled.” The Democrat has opted for small acts but focused on the sectors in which he believes he has more possibilities. Weeks earlier he was in Orlando appealing to the Puerto Rican vote, and then in Little Havana and Little Haiti looking for Cubans and Haitians. His campaign team has distributed radio spots that are targeted to Hispanics and that change accent based on the Florida county where they are broadcast. Latinos represent 20% of Florida voters and have their origin in diverse countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
A very different strategy from the Trump campaign. The president returned to the big campaign events on Monday with a rally at the Sanford airport, north of Orlando, where most of his supporters did not wear a mask and did not respect the social distance recommended by experts. Trump stayed away from the crowd, but his campaign team encouraged the presence of supporters. The same happened in Miami where the president participated on Thursday in a meeting with voters organized by the NBC network. At the gates of the Pérez Art Museum where the meeting was held, his followers did not stop shouting “four more years” in support of Trump. Martha Méndez, a 62-year-old pharmaceutical worker, was one of the members of the group in favor of the president. “He is doing what he can in the middle of the pandemic, which by the way is China’s fault, but he is the best president we have had in years, what he has done has been done by absolutely no one,” he commented.
Far from the tensions that viewers saw in the first debate between Trump and Biden, the meetings with citizens on Thursday also revealed the contrast between the two candidates. The Democrat, an old-school politician, oblivious to the world of television entertainment, was comfortable in the format and responded clearly and in detail to questions from attendees. There were no questions that put him on uncomfortable terrain, other than a young African American who blamed him for his unfortunate phrase that if a black man votes for Trump, “he is not black.” Instead, Trump had to deal with issues he doesn’t regularly talk about – like immigration, taxes, and white supremacism – and was pressured by presenter Savannah Guthrie to try and keep him from getting off the hook when asked questions from the assistants. Audience data for Thursday night shows that 12.2 million viewers watched Joe Biden on ABC, while Trump attracted 10.4 million on NBC.
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