Election 2020

Florida Called for Trump

The state was a must-win for the president, and he prevailed thanks in part to broad support from Cuban Americans and other Latino voters.

By Augusta Saraiva, a former intern at Foreign Policy, and Robbie Gramer, a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy.

This article is part of Election 2020: America Votes, FP’s round-the-clock coverage of the U.S. election results as they come in, with short dispatches from correspondents and analysts around the world. The America Votes page is free for all readers.

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump in Miami
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump cheer for him outside of the Versailles restaurant as they await results of the presidential election in Miami on Nov. 3. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump is projected to win Florida, one of the most important battleground states in the 2020 elections and a must-win for the U.S. president on the path to reelection.

In preelection polls, Democratic candidate Joe Biden had a narrow lead over Trump in Florida, but Latino voting blocs turned out for Trump in higher numbers than expected—especially in Miami-Dade County, where Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won by a 30-point margin in 2016. This year, Trump got nearly 46 percent of the vote in the majority-Latino county, a surge of 13 percentage points since the last election.

Part of the president’s appeal among the more than 2 million Hispanic voters in the county is his tough stance on socialist Latin American regimes. The Trump team warned during the campaign—repeatedly and falsely—that Biden would advance radical socialist policies in Washington if elected. (A surge in conspiracy theories and disinformation may have also played a role in turning Spanish-speaking voters in South Florida against Biden, as Politico reported.)

Trump, who has long been favored by Latino communities that fled such regimes, including Cubans, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans, even made inroads among more Democratic-leaning groups this year, early post-voting data shows.

Trump was hoping to attract Colombian American voters in Florida by painting Biden as a far-left sympathizer. Even young Cuban Americans, who Democrats hoped would veer left, turned out in larger numbers for the president this year. While only 21 percent of Cuban Americans under 40 said they intended to vote for Trump in 2016 in Miami-Dade, around 55 percent indicated they would do so this year.

Ahead of the elections, some members of Trump’s top national security team visited key swing states including Florida on official government business—trips that Democratic lawmakers and other Trump critics said were thinly veiled political stops designed to shore up support for his reelection campaign on the taxpayers’ dime. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Latin America in the weeks before the election drew criticism from some Brazilian lawmakers and diplomatic heavyweights, who accused Trump’s top diplomat of using the trip as a “campaign rally to appeal to Latinos in Florida.”

In a last effort to win the state, Biden sent former President Barack Obama to campaign in Miami on Monday night. Obama, who won around 58 percent of the vote in Miami-Dade in 2008 and 62 percent in 2012, used his last speech as an opportunity to appeal to the Latino community. “Here in South Florida, you see these ads, ‘Joe palling with communists, palling with socialists,’” Obama said. “You’d think he was having coffee with [late Cuban President Fidel] Castro every morning. Don’t fall for that. … He served as my vice president. I think we would know if he was a secret socialist by now.”

Augusta Saraiva is a former intern at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @gutavsaraiva

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer