Former Vice President Joe Biden will hold an event with veterans in Tampa on Tuesday, one of two stops in Florida during his first public appearance in the state as the Democratic nominee for president.
The 1:30 p.m. event at Hillsborough Community College is expected to be an intimate round table with veterans, continuing his outreach toward current and ex-military members. Last week, Biden’s campaign released a new 30-second digital ad aimed at voters who live within 50 miles of military bases including Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, Eglin Air Force Base and The Villages, home to a large concentration of retired veterans.
“Joe Biden understands the awesome power, responsibility and sacred duty of being commander-in-chief,” the ad says.
There’s growing evidence that the military community has become increasingly disenchanted with President Donald Trump. A recent survey of 1,018 active-duty troops commissioned by the independent defense-themed media outlet the Military Times found half of respondents viewed Trump unfavorably, compared to 38 percent who held a favorable view. Those numbers have reversed during Trump’s time in office and the result is this: 41 percent said they would vote for Biden and 38 percent would vote for Trump.
The military-themed event also comes with Florida election offices set to send absentee ballots to overseas residents, including active-duty personnel, on Saturday.
If Tuesday’s stop in Tampa will demonstrate Biden’s surprising strength with a voting bloc, his swing through the Orlando area will reflect where his campaign has room for improvement.
Biden will mark the start of Hispanic Heritage Month with an event in Kissimmee, where about seven in 10 residents identify as Hispanic or Latino and Spanish is the predominant language in a majority of households.
Trump has pulled slightly ahead of Biden among Florida’s Latino population, according to a recent NBC News/Marist poll, thanks in large part to the president’s strong appeal among South Florida’s sizable Cuban American population. Overall, polls show a tightening race in Florida; Biden is up 2.9 percentage points over Trump in the Tampa Bay Times polling average.
In a normal campaign year, Biden would have crisscrossed Florida several times by now to meet with voters, hold rallies and raise money. But campaign activity ceased right before Florida’s Democratic presidential primary in March before Biden had a chance to visit, and he hasn’t been able to make up for it until now, with less than 50 days until the Nov. 3 election.
That his first stop will be in Tampa underscore’s the region’s importance in determining which way Florida will swing this fall. Biden also relaunched his campaign this summer with a virtual rally geared toward Tampa supporters. Trump held an August rally on the tarmac at Tampa International Airport before a fundraiser in Pinellas County, and thousands of locals lined the motorcade route to show their support.
Biden’s trip here follows an appearance by his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, on Thursday. Harris spent the day in Miami-Dade County discussing issues facing the African American community.