To beat Marco Rubio, Val Deming’s inner circle says she must ‘double down’ on Latinos, refute socialism
The last time a Democrat lost a Florida Senate race was in 2018, when Rick Scott defeated former Senator Bill Nelson, who was doomed by lukewarm Latino support and party conviction. that he took Hispanics for granted.
Representative Val Demings will have to avoid this mistake, and other political landmines with Latinos, after announcing that she “is seriously considering” running against incumbent Senator Marco Rubio in a state that has not since become land more hostile to Democrats.
“Bill Nelson in 2018 is the perfect illustration of the ignorance of the Latin American vote in Florida, and that should be a warning everyone needs to remember,” said Democratic strategist Jose Parra, who has worked with candidates in the state.
He said that due to recent history, Demings will have to “double down” on raising awareness among Latinos and taking them seriously.
“She will have to triple and quadruple the Hispanic vote because she will likely do well with black voters,” Parra said. “She has to do this if she is to avoid the 2020 Biden numbers.”
Latino voters make up about 17% of the state’s electorate, with black voters making up 14%.
Biden’s representation in November included bloody votes in the traditional Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade County, where he won just 7 points after Hillary Clinton easily took the county by 29.6 points. For his part, Nelson, who began his Latino outreach in the final weeks of the 2018 campaign, received only 54% of the vote, compared to 45% for Scott, after a strong presence on the airwaves and in the field in the Hispanic communities. .
A Demings adviser, who requested anonymity because his official announcement has yet to be made, said from the outset his operation understood the critical importance of speaking to Latino voters.
“I think she has to do it,” the adviser said News week. “You are going to see the campaign’s first moves after it announces making Latino outreach a key part of the campaign,” including “full press in the Latino community, particularly in South Florida” .
Openly diagnosing the problem Democrats have often avoided in Florida, the adviser said traditional approaches to winning over the state are no longer viable, given that “the Democratic Party’s numbers in Miami-Dade have eroded over the years. last two cycles, and that’s what makes Florida tend to move away slightly from Democrats. “
Florida political watchers agree Rubio likely holds an advantage as a starting and as a Republican in a head-to-head clash with Demings, provided she wins an expected contested primary. In 2016, he split the Latin American vote against his Democratic opponent, winning 48% of the vote.
Meanwhile, Rubio’s campaign has indicated that they would be happy to come forward on his case, calling him “unmatched.”
“He wrote and passed the bipartisan PPP program that saved millions of jobs in Florida, wrote and passed the historic VA Accountability Act, fought to double the child tax credit despite opposition from Democrats and paved the way to get the Everglades restoration efforts back on track, “Mark Morgan, its campaign manager said News week.
Fernand Amandi, the top consultant for Obama’s Latino voter polls in both campaigns, said Deming’s challenge would be that she needs to make inroads in a community where she is “for the most part, frankly unknown.” .
But he added that she can reduce that inconvenience if she starts doing it early to progress in the “65 counties where she has never participated in a poll before”.
“While Val Demings is a formidable candidate who may replace Rubio very well, her team need to understand that unless they outperform with Hispanics at levels similar to Obama’s, they have no chance of winning. Rubio, ”he said. News week. “What makes Marco Rubio so great, despite his utter lack of accomplishments and his status as a national punchline as a Senator, is that he is still able to campaign fluently in English and Spanish in every corner of the country. the state without a translator, and that cannot be dismissed out of hand. “
Demings’ team understands that part of that bilingual message will need to be about addressing and rejecting the stigma of socialism, which Republicans used to hammer Democrats nationwide in 2020, especially in Florida, where the problem has grown in the minds of many people from Latin American countries like Cuba and Venezuela.
“I think it has to be emphatic,” Demings’ adviser said of the rejection of the socialist label, stressing that it needs to be done more effectively than Democrats did in 2020. “It has to be more than just deny it’s true. “
Demings’ inner circle believe her resume will work in her favor, with 27 years in law enforcement and the first woman to become Orlando Police Chief. They think that “police officer” can trigger a lot of connotations for people, but “a police officer is not a socialist”.
Her advisor cited the experience of Representative Abigail Spanberger, whom Republicans tried to portray as a socialist, an attack they said was blunted by her past as a former CIA agent.
“Because she was a CIA officer, that didn’t ring so true, and she ended up gaining a Republican district, whereas Donna Shalala in Florida didn’t have that type of profile,” the adviser said. Demings, citing one of the major losses. for Democrats in November. “They’ll still be running this game, but we have a different game to counter it, and it’s more effective.”
It’s unclear whether Demings will go as far as Spanberger to speak out against socialism, who blamed him for his narrow victory in a conference call with Democrats in November.
“We never need to use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ again,” Spanberger said at the time, according to reports.
Rubio’s approach to socialism is clear, however.
“His fight against the Chinese Communist Party got him sanctioned and banished by Beijing, and he is a leading voice on the dangers of socialism,” said Morgan, its campaign manager.
But Demings, who recently went viral for clashing with Rep. Jim Jordan, whom she accused of using the police as political “pawns” in the House, is seen as savvy and curious among Democrats across the state. .
Democratic strategist Evelyn Pérez-Verdía recalled giving a presentation in Orlando in 2014 to the Hispanic Democratic Caucus on Latinos in Florida to about 40 people. As she addressed the issue of unaffiliated voters, Pérez-Verdía heard a voice ring out from the back of the room. “Can you please speak louder? I can’t hear you,” Demings shouted.
Since then, Demings has impressed Pérez-Verdía as a strong woman who wants to know more about Latinos. But she said the key for the former police chief will be defining herself before Republicans are able to define her as a socialist.
“Unfortunately, we have to counter that with who we really are,” said Pérez-Verdía. “I know Val Demings is not a socialist, but they even called moderate Senator Bill Nelson a socialist.”
Rubio’s campaign clearly believes voters in Latin America and Latin America are his territory, with a source close to the campaign saying he understands the hemisphere very well, but also that Hispanic voters care about the issues. that concern other Floridians, such as good schools, good jobs and safe communities.
Immigration is an issue Rubio may highlight during the election campaign, the source said.
“The Coyote networks are going around saying there is a new official, you can enter the country,” the source said, referring to President Biden’s policies and rhetoric. “The circumstances are ripe for exploitation, and Rubio understands this and can talk about it.”
Rubio is seen as less well-educated in the minds of Florida voters, unlike DeSantis, according to counsel for Demings, who argued that although he may hold two terms, “people don’t have strong feelings about it “.
“Latin American politics are domestic politics in much of South Florida, but the Latin American community is not monolithic and Val understands how to reach out to diverse communities,” the adviser said. News week. “Rubio is the incumbent, and he has a name-identifying advantage, but it’s not an immovable object, even in the Florida Latino community.”