TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Latinos are expected to form the nation’s largest minority voting bloc in a U.S. presidential election for the first time this year. That’s 13% of the nation’s electorate and 20% of Florida’s voters. Political experts believe the Latino vote could tip the scale and decide who wins Florida and the presidency.
In Tampa, you can find Latinos raising their voices for who they want as their next leader whether it’s by organizing caravans – traditional to Latin American – or waving campaign flags at busy intersections.
Democrat or Republican, Hispanics are becoming aware that their votes could be critical. Pew Research reports a record 32 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
“The Hispanic vote is sort of like the pendulum, which way they will go. And the way in which they break could determine the election,” said Dr. Ed Benton, a political science professor at the University of South Florida who has been studying politics within Florida’s Hispanic community.
He says the landscape of Latinos in Florida has been changing for the past 20 years. Cubans remain the majority, especially in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and have historically voted conservative at the polls. But a growing number of Hispanic subgroups are growing, says Dr. Benton, with Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Central and South Americans bringing new values to the state.
“They have a different mentality and they are concerned about social issues,” Dr. Benton said.
The differences in key issues are making it a tight race in this battleground state. Recent polls have shown President Donald Trump and Joe Biden neck-and-neck among Latino voters. A September NBC/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll that surveyed 300 Latinos showed Biden leading the president 62% to 26%.
“They’re asking, ‘Under what kind of presidency, Democrat or Republican, do I and my family feel safer?’” said Dr. Benton.
For Tony Morejon, a Cuban-American, the answer is President Trump.
“Even though President Trump isn’t the poster child for eloquent speaking, he’s not the poster child for having a nice personality, he still brings to the table what I want to see,” Morejon said.
He supports the commander in chief’s law and order mentality and push for lower taxes.
“The son of an immigrant, immigrant parents, to see what they went through coming to the United States so we could be born in a free country to see people even entertain the idea of socialism, I can’t swallow it,” he said.
Mario Nuñez, a Biden supporter, disagrees.
“The socialist party moniker is a slippery slope. Democratic socialism is something that’s always worked in this country,” Nuñez said. “Your fire department, your police department – those are all entities that are there but by the grace of your property taxes.”
Nuñez, who is both Cuban and Puerto Rican, believes Biden has a strong plan to empower Latinos from creating paths to better education to immigration reform.
“Joe is a fighter but beyond that, he’s a kind, caring and decent man. He knows how to navigate those treacherous waters of Washington and I don’t think we can ask for a better advocate – not just for the Latin American community, certainly, but for everyone,” said Nuñez.
What raises concerns for both of these passionate advocates is that the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials projects that less than half of eligible Hispanic voters will cast a ballot in this year’s presidential election.
“The Latin American community is passionate, we know that. Now we need to take that passion and move it into the action category,” Nuñez said.
“It’s always going to be a matter of getting our place at the table, Democrat or Republican, whoever the frontrunner is, they need to have us on their team,” Morejon added.
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