KISSIMMEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Democrat Joe Biden courted Hispanic voters on Tuesday on his first campaign visit of the year to Florida, saying President Donald Trump had let them down with his divisive immigration policies and a disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Democratic presidential nominee, trying to overcome what opinion polls show is lagging support among the battleground state’s Hispanics, said Trump had proven he could not be a leader for all Americans.
“Donald Trump has failed the Hispanic community time and time again,” Biden told a Hispanic Heritage Month event in Kissimmee, the heart of the state’s rapidly growing Puerto Rican community.
With less than 50 days until the Nov. 3 election, Biden is trying to overcome concerns about him among Florida Latinos amid a disinformation campaign that has painted the moderate Democratic presidential nominee as a socialist.
Polls show Biden with a slight lead or essentially tied with Trump in the state, although the former vice president lags behind Democrat Hillary Clinton’s level of support with Florida Hispanics in 2016. Trump won Florida over Clinton by just 1.2 percentage points, which helped propel him to the White House.
Trump’s inroads with Florida Hispanics have been fueled by his strength with conservative Cuban Americans, a Republican-leaning bloc he has courted throughout his presidency.
Florida’s Republican lieutenant governor, Jeanette Núñez, a daughter of Cuban immigrants, told reporters that Biden’s agenda contradicted the values of “faith, family and freedom” held by Hispanic voters because he was “in the pocket” of the left.
Biden’s visit to Kissimmee in central Florida was a sign of the campaign’s focus on winning over Puerto Rican voters. Kissimmee received a big influx of people from the U. S. island territory after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
“Donald Trump has done nothing but assault the dignity of Hispanic families,” he said, pointing to the president’s policy of separating families at the southern border and the disproportionate toll that COVID-19 had taken on the community.
Biden rolled out an economic recovery plan for Puerto Rico that would remove restrictions on its access to disaster relief funding, forgive some federal disaster loans and expand investment in community health centers.
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