Florida Hispanic could dash White House hopes
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s surrogates dismiss recent polls showing him struggling in several battleground states, saying the numbers reflect a predictable up-and-down cycle in election-year surveys.
But one number should cause the real estate mogul serious concern: his very low standing among Florida Hispanics.
Most analysts who crunch Electoral College math say Trump’s quest for the presidency is almost certainly doomed if he can’t beat Hillary Clinton in Florida. And few give the Republican nominee much chance to win the Sunshine State if he can’t at least match the 40 percent of the Hispanic vote that Mitt Romney claimed four years ago.
Trump’s support among Florida Hispanics hovers below 15 percent.
In late April, an Associated Industries of Florida poll had him at 10 percent. On Wednesday, a survey by New Latino Voice pegged his support at around 13 percent in Florida, in line with their national tracking poll of Hispanics.
Trump is doing better than previous GOP nominees among other demographic groups, notably white men. But that might not be enough to overcome his woeful numbers among Hispanics, many of whom view his comments about Mexicans and immigration as insensitive. A new Suffolk University poll shows Clinton up 48-42 percent in Florida.
Trump should be doing better in Florida, given its pro-GOP Cuban electorate and history of sending Hispanics to Congress and statewide office. In 2004, George W. Bush nabbed about 55 percent of Florida’s Hispanic vote on his way to winning the state. Romney lost the state in 2012, but that 40 percent share of the Hispanic vote helped keep the race with President Obama close.
Trump has an added challenge: Florida’s Hispanic base has grown increasingly Democratic with the influx of left-leaning Puerto Ricans in the key I-4 corridor and the coming of age of younger Cubans who aren’t as conservative as their parents and grandparents.
Clinton allies already hope to capitalize on the situation.
Priorities USA, a pro-Clinton super PAC, is rolling out a digital ad in three battleground states, including Florida. Titled “Our Country,” the 30-second spot features a Miami-Dade resident identified as Careliz, whose sons served in the military.
“To hear the things that Donald Trump says, it just disgusts me,” she says.
Opponent takes on Rubio’s Big Sugar ties
Most Floridians probably haven’t heard of Republican Senate candidate Ernie Rivera. But the Tampa-area businessman has just released a digital ad that takes aim at Sen. Marco Rubio for not doing more to prevent toxic algae blooms befouling the waters near the Treasure Coast.
Specifically, Rivera dings the incumbent for not supporting the purchase of U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee that environmental activists say plays a crucial role in sending overflow water south through the Everglades. Currently, the runoff flows east and west, contributing to the ecological disaster in the Indian River Lagoon.
In the ad, Rivera casually sits beside an Okeechobee couple identified as the Wilsons as they ask Rubio why he won’t get behind the purchase.
“I know that Big Sugar is a large campaign supporter for you, but why is this not being dealt with?” Charles Wilson asks in the 30-second spot as he looks into the camera.
The sound of crickets can be heard. Then Rivera chimes in: “Charles, I don’t think he’s going to answer.”
Rubio and a pro-Rubio super PAC received $486,765 from the sugar industry during his recent presidential bid, according to an analysis by TC Palm newspapers.
He’s also been a staunch supporter of a federal program that provides price supports for the sugar industry and imposes quotas and tariffs on imports.
The program, which keeps sugar prices artificially high, is opposed by environmentalists because sugar farms stand in the way of Lake Okeechobee water moving south. Environmentalists also claim the industry isn’t paying its fair share to clean farm runoff, with taxpayers footing most of the bill.
Earlier this year, Rubio said he doesn’t support the purchase because it’s not a “realistic proposal.”
He said there’s no money to buy the land and the federal government should focus on finishing projects already in the pipeline. The former presidential candidate also pointed out there’s no willing seller after U.S. Sugar Corp. lobbied heavily against a deal to sell more than 46,000 acres to the state last year.
“The biggest issue is we’ve got current projects that are already programmed that are being executed upon,” Rubio said at the time. “I don’t want us to lose focus on those programs and those projects and getting those done.”
FL lawmakers urge Zika action
Florida lawmakers call non-stop for Zika help
Congress is on recess until next month but Florida lawmakers haven’t stopped calling for lawmakers to address the growing Zika crisis.
As of Friday, the state Department of Health had logged 432 cases, including 16 locally transmitted in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami-Dade – the first such reported cases in the continental U.S.
A timeline of recent developments:
• Last week, GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan pressed the Obama administration for “all necessary federal resources to be immediately directed to Florida.”
• On Monday, Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Treasure Coast lawmaker running for Senate, called for a special session to pass emergency legislation stuck in Congress.
• On Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to allow a procedural maneuver that would enable passage of a Zika bill without reconvening the entire Senate.
• On Wednesday, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio held a news conference blaming both parties and the Obama administration for not doing more to combat the disease. He called for a special session as well.
• On Thursday, Nelson joined 40 other senators asking McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to cancel the remainder of the recess and call both chambers back into session to pass a Zika bill.
• On Friday, Rubio announced plans to reintroduce a bill that would provide additional protections from Zika to male and female military personnel, including those serving in high-risk areas.
• Also Friday, GOP Reps. Curt Clawson of Bonita Springs and Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami-Dade sent their own letter to Senate leaders urging them “to pursue all actions at their fingertips to get a funding bill to the President’s desk to combat the spread of the Zika virus.”
• On Saturday, Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, an Orlando-area lawmaker also running for Senate, was scheduled to hold a town hall in Miami Gardens to discuss Zika “and the wholly inadequate public health response from the federal government and state of Florida,” according to a release from his office.
State gets ‘D’ for family leave
Florida gets a barely passing grade when it comes to its treatment of new and expecting parents.
A new analysis by the National Partnership for Women & Families indicates few states have expanded upon the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act since it passed 23 years ago. Among the poor performers: Florida.
The state was one 15 states that got a “D.” Twelve others got an “F.”
Much of the reason for Florida’s substandard grade is that it “does not expand upon federal rights or protections for new and expecting parents who work in the private sector,” the report states.
State workers fare a little better. Florida law provides career service employees “with up to six months of leave to care for a new child or deal with a family member’s serious medical issues, including a spouse with serious medical issues arising from pregnancy or childbirth.”
State workers also don’t have to satisfy any tenure requirements to be eligible for leave,” the report said.