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Joe Biden is in big trouble with Latino voters.

Or is he?

Some recent polling in Florida sent Democrats into frantic hand-wringing over what appears to be tepid support for the Democratic nominee in a battleground state and with a voter group that has been reliably Democratic in previous election cycles.

An NBC/Marist poll showed President Donald Trump ahead of Biden among Latinos in the Sunshine State, 50%-46%; the same poll had Democrat Hillary Clinton beating Trump by 23 percentage points among Florida Hispanics in 2016. A separate poll had Trump slightly ahead of Biden among Hispanics in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade County.

Biden was in Kissimmee, Florida Tuesday night to make an appeal to Latinos and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

"Donald Trump has done nothing but assault the dignity of Hispanic families, over and over and over again," Biden said, referencing the separation of immigrant families at the border and Trump's paper towel-throwing display to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Biden pledged to help Puerto Rico with its crumbling infrastructure and crippling debt.

"The Hispanic community holds in their hand the destiny of this country," Biden said. "It's true – you can decide the direction of this country," he said. "Look me over, again," he added, an indication of Democratic concerns of the former vice president's showing among Latinos with less than two months to go before the election.

[READ: Democracy Demographics: The data behind the votes.]

The numbers alarmed Democrats, who took notice of Biden's poor showing among Hispanics in the Democratic primaries (when Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was still running) and fear a lackluster showing in the general election could cost Biden Florida and endanger his lead in other states as well.

But a closer look at the numbers indicates Biden's Latino problem is Florida-specific. In other states with substantial Hispanic populations, Biden is faring well and could flip at least one state blue because of Hispanic voters.

Colorado, where the Republican presidential nominee has won every year from 1972-2004, except in 1992, is now not even considered a battleground state – largely because Hispanic voters have trended towards Democrats, experts on Latinos voters say. A Public Policy Polling survey in July showed Biden with three-to-one support (66% to 22%) among Latinos, compared to Trump.

New Mexico, which voted for the Republican for president as recently as 2004, is also considered firmly in Biden's corner, largely because of the growth of the Hispanic population. The demographic now accounts for nearly half of New Mexico's population, according to the nonpartisan group USA Facts.

Nevada is still in play, but Biden is favored in the Silver State, where a growing Latino population (29%, according to USAFacts) tends to vote more Democratic.

Cartoons on the 2020 ElectionView All 245 Images

Meanwhile, Democrats are eyeing two possible pickups – Arizona and Texas – where Hispanic voters heavily favor Biden and could make a definitive difference in the states. In Arizona, where a Democratic presidential nominee has won only once (in 1996) since 1972, Biden is leading Trump overall in most polls and is ahead among Latinos, 62% to 29%, according to a recent poll by Equis Research. That's one percentage point better than Hillary Clinton did in the state in 2016.

Texas, where Biden and Trump are virtually tied in many polls, is considered a longer shot for Biden; while the state's changing demographics offer an opportunity, it's a big and expensive state in which to invest. But Lone Star State Democrats are bullish – and they credit their high hopes to a Latino population overwhelmingly favoring Biden in polls. A Public Policy Polling survey earlier this month has Biden ahead of Trump among Latinos, 71% to 23%.

"We're seeing Latinos in droves going against Donald Trump," says Abhi Rahman, spokesman for the state Democratic party. "Joe Biden is a man of faith, and a man of character, and that's resonating" among Latinos, many of whom are Catholic, he adds.

Texas Latinos, who make up 40% of the state population, are mostly Mexican-American, and were insulted by Trump's characterization of them in 2016 as "criminals" and "rapists," Rahman says. The president's border wall plans are unpopular with Texas Latinos, he adds, noting that Mexico is Texas's biggest trading partner.

The state party is doing a "massive Latino outreach" program to register Hispanics, he says. "We feel very good about where we're at."

Perennial battleground Florida is a more gettable state for Democrats than Texas, but it's also a more complicated strategic equation, when it comes to winning over Hispanic voters.

The state has a diverse group of Latinos, including Cuban-Americans (who tend to be more conservative and GOP-leaning), Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans and other Latin Americans.

The Trump campaign has sought to cast Biden as a tool of "socialists," a message that could damage the Democrat among Latinos whose families fled socialist or communist regimes in Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela. Puerto Ricans are a more reliably Democratic voter group, but they do not have the same history with the party as, for example, African Americans.

In Puerto Rico, residents don't vote for Democrats and Republicans; parties on the island are instead roughly identified with those favoring statehood and those favoring the current commonwealth or independence.

In Florida, it's critical to make separate appeals to different Hispanic populations, says Simon Rosenberg, who helped develop the Democrats' national Hispanic policy when he worked on Bill Clinton's campaign. The campaign spent $3 million on ads targeting Hispanic voters, with three separate audiences – Puerto Rican, Cuban and Venezuelan – with different Spanish accents narrating them, he says.

While Biden does not need Florida to secure the presidency, a Democratic win in the state would virtually ensure a Biden presidency. Further, since the state is expected to report all its ballots on Election Night, a Biden win in the state would, elections analysts believe, result in the race being called for the former vice president, even if other states are still counting absentee ballots.

Even if Biden wins the Hispanic vote overall – as he is expected to do – a swing of just a few percentage points toward Trump could flip a state, and with it, the election, notes Chuck Rocha, a Democratic consultant and former Sanders campaign strategist whose book, "Tio Bernie," lays out how Sanders won the Latino vote in the primaries.

"We never learn from our mistakes," Rocha says, referring to what many Democrats see as lost opportunities to persuade and turn out Hispanic voters. Biden will probably spend more than either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton on Latino outreach, but "it needs to be ten times that" to achieve an overwhelming Biden win, Rocha says.

For example, one recent poll has Biden faring better than the surveys done by Marist and by the Miami Herald of Miami-Dade voters. The survey, released Tuesday by Monmouth University, has Biden getting 58% support among Florida Latinos, with 32% choosing Trump – a healthy lead, and a single percentage point worse than the 2016 spread between Trump and Clinton. But that year, Clinton lost Florida by 1.2 percentage points, ensuring Trump's ascension to the White House. Small margins, Hispanic vote analysts warn, have big consequences.

Susan Milligan, Senior Politics Writer

Susan Milligan is senior political writer at U.S. News & World Report. She has covered ...  Read more

Tags: 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden, Hispanics, Hispanic voters, Florida

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Hispanic Caucus members embark on virtual bus tour with Biden campaign

Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Memo: Warning signs flash for Trump on debates Senate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden National postal mail handlers union endorses Biden MORE launched a "virtual bus tour" with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Wednesday, targeting Latino voters in Southern and Midwestern battleground states.

The virtual tour will run from east to west, with CHC members hosting events in different cities, hoping to encourage Latino voter participation and selling Biden's plans for the community.

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellFlorida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Mucarsel-Powell, Giménez to battle for Florida swing district Hispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs MORE (D-Fla.), the South Florida representative who kicked off the tour, said the program, called "Voy a Votar" (I'm going to vote) shows Biden's respect for Hispanic communities.

"Joe Biden knows that our country, and especially our state, does not exist as we know it without the Hispanic community," said Mucarsel-Powell in a statement. "The United States is built on the backs of our parents and grandparents, and he wants to celebrate it by honoring us and our identities as Hispanic-Americans."

The program was launched as both the Biden campaign and President TrumpDonald John TrumpBarr criticizes DOJ in speech declaring all agency power 'is invested in the attorney general' Military leaders asked about using heat ray on protesters outside White House: report Powell warns failure to reach COVID-19 deal could 'scar and damage' economy MORE's reelection effort have raised the volume on their Hispanic outreach to open Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Hispanic voters have come into focus for presidential campaigns as polls have tightened in states like Florida, where the Hispanic vote is crucial, and Biden's lead has expanded in states with smaller Hispanic populations, like Michigan and Wisconsin.

Still, the virtual bus tour will seek out Hispanic voters in states with relatively smaller populations, where a Hispanic minority could tip the balance of an election.

And the tour will target California and Texas, where about half of the country's entire Hispanic population lives, and down-ballot Democratic efforts will rely on high Hispanic participation.

Voy a Votar kicked off in Miami Wednesday with a phone bank hosted by Mucarsel-Powell, Rep. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralSharpton, police reform take center stage at National Mall Hispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's latest plan on racial inequality MORE (D-N.Y.), Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE, and actor Jonathan del Arco from Star Trek: Picard.

CHC Chairman Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) is expected to join the program Friday.

Voy a Votar will host events in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California.

Tags Debbie Mucarsel-Powell Adriano Espaillat Donald Trump Tom Perez Joe Biden

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