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Former campaign rivals join forces in Florida to defeat Trump

Anti-Trump political committee The Lincoln Project is joining with three Democrat-leaning group to target Hispanic voters in Florida.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Miami while visiting Ball & Chain in Little Havana for a meet-and-greet with Hispanic voters on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Miami while visiting Ball & Chain in Little Havana for a meet-and-greet with Hispanic voters on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. [ [CARL JUSTE CJUSTE | Miami Herald] ]
Published Sep. 28, 2020

The effort to defeat Trump in Florida and mobilize the Hispanic vote for former Vice President Joe Biden has led to some strange bedfellows.

An anti-Trump political committee, The Lincoln Project, run by current and former Republicans, announced Monday it has joined with three Democrat-leaning groups to target Hispanic voters and counter the messaging of the president’s campaign.

The team of former rivals includes Mi Familia Vota, UnidosUS Action Fund and Nuestro PAC, which was founded by Bernie Sanders' former political adviser, Chuck Rocha. The four groups will host a bipartisan virtual town hall on Wednesday as part of their voter mobilization effort and multi-media marketing campaign.

Together, they say, they can correct the mistakes each has made over the past 30 years working with Hispanics in Florida, and replicate their successes.

Their top message: the disproportionate impact of the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic on Latino communities and the economic pain that has wrought, said Mike Madrid, co-founder of The Lincoln Project and a veteran of the Jeb Bush and George W. Bush Hispanic outreach efforts.

"The statistics are overwhelming that it’s people of color, Latinos and African Americans specifically, that have taken the largest brunt of the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic,'' Madrid said.

Although Biden maintains an advantage among Hispanic voters across the country, in Florida the margin is in the low single digits according to recent polls, as Cuban-American voters have coalesced in support of Trump.

Madrid said his previous work with more conservative Latinos will help fill the gaps with segments of Latino communities in Florida who might not see the appeal of Trump’s attacks on Biden, but who have not historically seen their interests represented in the Democratic Party.

One goal of the campaign, for example, is to counter the president’s messaging to Cubans and Venezuelans on former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.

"We believe that if you put up a boogeyman of Fidel Castro, and a real-life example of the pandemic, which was exacerbated by Trump’s mismanagement, and the economic devastation, for which he has no plan, we’re gonna do quite well with this constituency,'' Madrid said.

Accompanying the announcement Monday, the Lincoln Project released a new digital ad, “Le Creímos,” — “We believed him” — that underscores the president’s handling of the coronavirus on Hispanics and uses audio excerpts of the president calling COVID-19 “more deadly than your strenuous flus” and saying: “I wanted to always play it down.”

It’s not an entirely new message. But this bipartisan effort puts Republicans like Madrid and Hispanic-American marketing executive and political consultant Lionel Sosa at the same table as Rocha, the former Latino outreach director for Sanders and founder of the largest Latino SuperPAC in the nation.

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"If you want to know how bad I want to beat Donald Trump, I’m willing to sit down with guys like Mike Madrid to build a coalition,'' said Rocha. He said to win Florida "takes a multi-layered, multi-lens approach to a very complicated electorate.''

"We put together a team that looks like the electorate in Florida,'' he said.

Nuestro PAC is “dumping 2 million pieces of mail to persuadable Latino voters” in Florida, as well as targeting them with bilingual digital and radio ads, Rocha said. The universe of potential voters includes every infrequent voter and any Latino who registered in the last two years.

Meanwhile, Madrid and the Lincoln Project are focused on messaging to Cubans and Venezuelans. To that end, Sosa has developed half a dozen digital and TV ads the Lincoln Project now has in rotation, Madrid said.

Madrid said the Hispanic mobilization campaign also focuses on talking to Puerto Ricans by pushing media in both Florida and on the island, where residents don’t have the right to vote in the general election.

"We learned that they’re in touch with each other, more than most folks,'' said Rick Wilson, the former Republican political consultant turned anti-Trumper who is one of the founders of the Lincoln Project. “You begin to understand, what happens on the island still strongly drives behavior of Puerto Rican voters here on the mainland.”

For the last month, the Lincoln Project has been dropping $3.1 million in digital ads in Florida as part of a micro-targeting campaign aimed at voters it believes will decide whether Biden wins Florida: Latinos across the state, suburban women who live around Orlando and Tampa, and Puerto Rican voters mostly in Central Florida, he said.

Similar efforts are underway in three other swing states: Arizona, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

The investment is modest, compared to the $100 million Florida-focused TV campaign announced earlier this month by Bloomberg’s political committee. And the announcement Monday comes on the same day Bloomberg told the Miami Herald that he’s giving $4 million to grassroots organizations across Florida to help promote Biden by talking with voters in minority communities.

But the approach is to “work the small numbers,” Wilson said, and snatch thousands of persuadable voters in decisive areas with an Electoral College strategy.

"They’re not hard-core progressives. They’re not hard-core Republicans. They are an underserved market that many of them made the choice and voted for Trump in ’16,'' he said.

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