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Biden to soak up sunshine and campaign cash in Florida trip

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will spend Tuesday raising money in Florida, a onetime swing state that has since become a Republican stronghold and the home turf of Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

One fundraiser is scheduled to take place in Jupiter, about a half hour north of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, and the other in Miami.

Biden has been buoyed by positive economic news as fears of a recession have faded. Now he’s eager to stockpile campaign cash to help him promote his record and target Trump in what is expected to be a grueling and expensive election year.

Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee reported raising more than $97 million in the final three months of last year.

Although Florida’s wealthy donors make the state an important stop for Biden, it’s unlikely to swing his way in November. President Barack Obama won Florida in 2008 and 2012, but Trump carried the state in 2016 and 2020.

In addition, Republicans routed Democrats in Florida in the 2022 midterm elections, when they won campaigns for governor, U.S. Senate and other statewide positions by about 20 percentage points across the board. Voter registration, which favored Democrats by 600,000 a little more than a decade ago, now shows Republicans with an 800,000-voter margin.

Florida’s rightward lean reflects the arrival of retirees from the Midwest and Northeast who generally favor Republicans, but also the political preferences of the state’s Latino population, which makes up 18% of its electorate.

AP VoteCast found that Biden won just 54% of the state’s Latino voters in 2020, down substantially from his national average of 63%. He performed especially poorly among people of Cuban descent, who made up 5% of Florida’s voters.

These lower margins among Latinos also resulted in Biden performing worse in some of the state’s most populous and wealthiest counties compared to previous Democratic nominees. For example, Biden won Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in 2020, but by lower margins than Hillary Clinton did in 2016.

Inflation is also much more of a challenge in Florida, where residents tend to drive more and the economy depends on tourism. Although consumer sentiment has improved and inflation has eased, higher prices have been a persistent weight on Biden’s approval numbers. The consumer price index for the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area jumped 5.7% in December from a year ago, compared to 3.4% nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Kevin Wagner, a Florida Atlantic University political science professor who runs the Palm Beach County school’s polling operation, said Biden has a chance in Florida given the high number of independents, who make up about a quarter of the electorate.

Wagner also said the inability of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s former rival for the GOP nomination, and the Legislature to rein in the state’s skyrocketing housing prices and insurance rates could cost the party votes.

“The issues people are focused on are going to be different, the candidates are going to be different” than 2022, he said. “The assumption that Florida will necessarily be an easy victory for Republicans is questionable.”

Both Florida parties have been hit by infighting. The Republicans recently ousted their state party chair, Christian Ziegler, after he got caught up in a sex scandal.

“President Biden can keep visiting Florida all he wants, but I hope while he is here he learns from the policies here that are working. We look forward to retiring him and his failed administration in November,” the party’s new chair, Evan Power, said in a statement.

The state Democratic Party has long been plagued by disorganization. After the 2020 election, party employees learned that their medical insurance had not been paid, leaving them uncovered and some with significant doctor bills.

Former state agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried was elected party chair last year in response to the 2022 trouncing. Fried is the only Democrat to win a statewide race in the last decade when she won in 2018, but so far hasn’t been able to stem the party’s voter registration slide.

Fried said she believes Biden will win Florida this year. Proposals that would restrict abortion and legalize marijuana could be on the ballot, driving up turnout among Democrats and left-leaning independents.

“Florida is in play and is worth fighting for,” Fried said.


Spencer reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Associated Press writer Josh Boak contributed to this report.

Chris Megerian And Terry Spencer, The Associated Press