Florida has never been known as a place of stability, especially in its politics.
And yet stability is what has been on the minds of many Democrats in the state who say they’ll vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in Tuesday’s presidential primary election instead of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“I like some of Sanders’ ideas, but he’s a little too extreme for me,” said Jeanne Hilburn, a 76-year-old retired teacher who lives in the suburbs of Tampa. “A lot of Democrats are like me — we want stability.”
As the race for the Democratic nomination enters a penultimate phase, with Sanders’ campaign on the brink of collapse and Biden’s ascendant, attention is turning to places like Florida, which is holding its primary on Tuesday along with Ohio, Illinois and Arizona. Florida has 219 delegates, the biggest prize of next week’s election.
Few places hold the electoral cachet of Florida, which has been among the most coveted swing states in the last three decades, including during the contentious, chaotic recount of 2000. It is a vital state for President Donald Trump, who would have almost no path to reelection without it.
Biden’s advisers are banking on a decisive Florida victory that sends a clear message that he is much better positioned to win the state and deny Trump a second term.
In 2016, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton here by 1.2 percentage points.
“Florida, as always, is pivotal in the outcome,” said Nikki Fried, who is the state’s agriculture commissioner and top elected Democrat and who endorsed Biden. “We are the ultimate swing state.”
Sanders’ support in Florida has always been tenuous. In the 2016 primary, he lost to Clinton by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. This year, Sanders angered a potentially large voting bloc — Cuban Americans — by praising Fidel Castro for implementing a literacy program in the communist nation.
“There is nothing positive you can say about the conditions in Cuba. If he doesn’t understand that, it is hard to conceive that he will get any votes,” said Xavier Suarez, who was the first Cuban-born mayor of Miami and is now running as an independent in the county mayoral race. “It’s gonna be a massacre.”
That leaves many Florida Democrats looking beyond the primary to November. Several groups have banded together to register people to vote and mobilize for November.
One of the four groups, Organizing Together 2020, is led by Fried. It will hire employees, register voters, train volunteers and then turn everything over to the party after the July convention. Another of the groups is For Our Future, a super PAC that is made up largely of Mike Bloomberg’s campaign apparatus.