Biden campaign officials, Florida Democrats rail against DeSantis ahead of debate

Republicans now have the voter registration advantage in Florida that Democrats held for decades.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, in Miami. The event was held ahead of the third GOP presidential primary debate on Wednesday.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, in Miami. The event was held ahead of the third GOP presidential primary debate on Wednesday. [ MATIAS J. OCNER | Miami Herald ]
Published Nov. 7

President Joe Biden’s top campaign officials and leading Florida Democrats on Tuesday went after Republicans in Miami for Florida’s rising cost of living and increasingly conservative social agenda under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis, offering an early look at how they plan to take on the GOP in Florida next year.

The remarks during a news conference at a union office by Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez and other Democratic officials — including the governor of Illinois — came a day before five Republican presidential hopefuls descend upon the city for the third GOP primary debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, is set to hold a campaign rally in Hialeah at the same time as the debate.

The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee are also set to hold a series of roundtables with voters throughout Miami-Dade County on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Rodriguez took aim at DeSantis’ so-called “Florida Blueprint” — the governing agenda that he has touted throughout his White House bid — claiming that it’s brought nothing to the state but high housing costs, runaway property insurance premiums and a spate of conservative social policies ranging from a six-week ban on abortions to the removal of certain books from school libraries.

“President Biden and Vice President [Kamala] Harris are running for reelection because they believe that Americans should have more freedoms, not less; more rights, not fewer,” she said. “Tomorrow night in Florida, MAGA Republican extremism will be on full display. And we will continue to shine a light — a bright spotlight — on the vision that the president and vice president continue to build for our country.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a member of the Biden campaign’s national advisory board, called Florida “the ground zero point of the MAGA agenda,” using an acronym for “make America great again,” one of Trump’s longtime political slogans.

“The MAGA agenda isn’t an agenda about freedom,” Pritzker said. “It’s about fear.”

A spokesperson for DeSantis’ presidential campaign did not respond to the Miami Herald’s request for comment on the remarks.

Underlying the news conference is a difficult political reality for Democrats. The party hasn’t carried Florida in a presidential election since 2012, when former President Barack Obama was last on the ballot, and recent elections have seen Democrats cede key constituencies to Republicans.

The party hit a low point last year when DeSantis coasted to reelection by a nearly 20-point margin and notched a win in Miami-Dade County, an area that Democrats had once relied on to bank large numbers of votes. Worsening the blow was a series of down-ballot losses for Democrats that ultimately handed Republicans supermajorities in both chambers of the state Legislature.

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In another show of the GOP’s strength in Florida, there are now over 625,000 more registered Republican voters in the state than Democrats. A decade ago, Democrats led Republicans in Florida voter registrations by roughly 500,000.

Since last November, Florida Democrats have scrambled to right the ship. Manny Diaz, the former mayor of Miami, resigned as the state party’s chairperson in January following the 2022 midterm elections, and Democrats elected Nikki Fried, the former state agriculture commissioner, to replace him.

Any effort to revive the flagging state Democratic Party is likely to need substantial national help. Fried told the Herald on Tuesday that she had already received commitments from the Biden campaign and national Democratic groups that they plan to put financial resources into Florida.

“We have gotten a commitment that Florida is part of the expansion map,” Fried said. “That we, as well as North Carolina, are part of the expansion of how President Biden is going to get reelected; to make sure that we’re pulling back some of the losses that we’ve seen in the last couple election cycles here.”

“[National Democrats] understand the role that Florida plays, and they understand what Democrats here in the state have done since December 2022 — that we are fighting back, that we are reorganizing and that they now have a reason to invest back into Florida,” Fried added.