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The South Florida Roundup

Looking Ahead To The 2020 Florida Democratic Primary Election


Florida Democrats will be voting in the presidential primary next month -- and it remains a tight race.

The Iowa caucus results came in days after voting, and there have been several reports of inaccuracies.


Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobucher all came out of the troubled Iowa caucus with double digit support.  Mike Bloomberg wants to compete after the early caucuses and primaries, including in Florida. 

If any of them  hope to get their party's presidential nomination, they are going to have to break out from the pack. That puts more attention on Florida Democrats, especially those in South Florida. One out of every three registered Democrats in Florida is in South Florida.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson talked about the primary race in the weeks ahead with a panel of journalists: Glenna Milberg with WPLG, Gloria Ordaz with Telemundo 51 and David Smiley with the Miami Herald.

Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

TOM HUDSON: What are you seeing? What are you sensing in terms of the ground game of these campaigns, while still crowded in the primary in Florida with early outreach in the Hispanic voting community? 

GLORIA ORDAZ: This year, for the first time, Latinos are expected to be the largest minority in the U.S. presidential election. And I think that the Democratic candidates have a problem because in terms of the Hispanic community, the candidates are nonexistent. They don't have a visibility in South Florida. They need to understand that they need to come. They need to outreach the community, engage with the community, because if not, they will not be competitive in a presidential election. And they have to be very competitive with Hispanic voters to be able to win Florida.

HUDSON: It's such an interesting observation that while, yes, the candidates themselves are focused on these early states and that makes sense, what about that early outreach on the part of surrogates, in the part of the ground game, in the part of the field work, that you can't turn on after Super Tuesday in early March and just flip a switch and go to work in Florida. 

DAVID SMILEY: Joe Biden has tried to build a very large stable of surrogates, but a lot of those surrogates are stuck in Tallahassee. There's a great Politico story about how frustrated some of the lawmakers are that they can't actually go out and go to bat for him at a time where he's struggling.

I think the Democratic candidates, whether it be this presidential cycle or going back to the gubernatorial election, have struggled to connect with Hispanic voters, particularly with non-party-affiliated Hispanic voters, which won't matter in a Democratic primary, although there is some effort by, say, the Warren campaign to reach out to independent voters. I went around with her campaign in Little Havana a couple months ago, and they were knocking on doors of independent voters, trying to talk them about Elizabeth Warren and hopefully eventually convince them to register as Democrats to vote for her. But they have a problem generally connecting, particularly with South Florida's Hispanic community, because it's just a very different diaspora.

HUDSON: It's not monolithic, right?

ORDAZ: Hispanic voters in South Florida are very different and their priorities are very different from other Hispanic voters in the country, because most of the Hispanic voters that live here in South Florida, they came fleeing dictatorial regimes, fleeing a socialist regime, and that's another challenge that the Democratic candidates have. They need to separate that image that Hispanic voters have, that if you are a Democrat, then you are socialist. 

HUDSON: Glenna, you know full well how that nuance plays for South Florida Democrats.

GLENNA MILBERG: Having covered the governor's race. It was the DeSantis campaign that first deployed the word "socialism" in South Florida as a big, scary concept. And so now you have a Democratic candidate for president, Bernie Sanders, calling himself a democratic socialist, which is a far different term, in practice and in policy, than the big scary socialism word that you hear in South Florida when people associate it with Venezuela's or Cuba's government. It was a really interesting campaign tactic that I think the Republican Party has for their benefit picked up on and is going to be using in the presidential campaign, as well.

Alexander Gonzalez produces the afternoon newscasts airing during All Things Considered. He enjoys helping tell the South Florida story through audio and digital platforms. Alex is interested in a little of everything from business to culture to politics.
In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.