MIAMI — During a rally in Miami-Dade County two days before Election Day, former President Donald Trump reveled in the chants from a friendly and familiar audience: South Florida’s conservative Hispanic voters.
“The socialist, communist and Marxist direction of the radical Democratic Party is one of the biggest reasons that Hispanic Americans are joining our movement by the millions and millions and millions,” Trump said.
The crowd started chanting. “We love you! We love you!”
“Oh do I love you,” Trump responded. “You have no idea how much.”
Supporters waved “Cubans for Trump,” “Venezuelans for Trump” and “Nicaraguans for Trump” posters in the background.
“They say it’s the Trump party they’re coming to,” Trump added. “I say, let it be the Republican Party. But you do like me, I know that.”
Two years after the GOP made stunning gains up and down the ballot among Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade County, Florida Republicans are taking a preemptive victory lap over what they hope will be similar results Tuesday night — enough to possibly flip the once-Democratic stronghold red.
“I don’t want communism again,” said Cristina Brito, a 67-year-old Cuban American and Trump supporter, alluding to how Republicans have historically branded Democrats as “communists” and “socialists” in the state. “I don’t want to face it and I want this country to be free forever. I want Donald Trump 2024.”
But while Sunday’s event was billed as a side-by-side appearance with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in Westchester — a neighborhood that is almost 90% Hispanic and overwhelmingly Republican — the crowd’s preference and nostalgia for the former president was clear: Among many of Miami-Dade County’s Hispanic voters, Trump still reigned as king.
“It’s not just that I’m a Trump follower, I actually follow his policy,” said Antonio Quintero, 69, who is also Cuban. “A lot of people think it’s fanaticism. It’s not fanaticism. It’s that when Trump was president, this country flourished.”
The rally at the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition Fairgrounds, where nearly all of Florida’s top Republicans spoke save Gov. Ron DeSantis, who campaigned elsewhere in the state, was an opportunity for Trump to highlight his dominance over conservative Hispanics in South Florida. In 2020, he lost majority-Hispanic Miami-Dade County to President Joe Biden by 7 percentage points, an improvement from 2016, when Hillary Clinton won it by nearly 30 percentage points.
By 5:40 p.m. on Sunday, the last day of early voting, Republicans had a nearly 6,000-vote lead over Democrats in early voting and mail ballots. Statewide, Republicans had a 331,185 vote advantage as of Sunday morning.
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“Miami-Dade County, this is Trump country,” said state Rep. Danny Perez, speaking ahead of Trump’s appearance. “There are many elected officials that you will hear today ... but there is absolutely no one that deserves more credit that actually believed in us, invested his time in us, invested his policies in us and turned this county red than Donald J. Trump.”
Recent polls have shown DeSantis, who is running for reelection, is popular among Hispanic voters and appears to have benefited from Trump’s popularity among Cuban Americans. Both Republicans drew big crowds at their Sunday events, each of which featured swag that has become emblematic of the Trump era in politics. At DeSantis’ rally, for example, multiple people wore “DeSantis Airlines” shirts in reference to his taxpayer-funded migrant flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
The effort to fly migrants to Massachusetts was condemned by Democrats and immigration activists, who said the move was a political stunt. But some polls have shown that Cuban Americans, for example, mostly supported DeSantis’ flights.
Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly said his own hardline immigration policies have helped bring Hispanics to the Republican Party.
During his speech on Sunday, Trump talked about immigration and ran through a list of recent violent crimes committed by immigrants in the U.S. illegally, some of them in Florida.
“Our country will be doomed but when Republicans retake Congress we must immediately force the restoration of our southern border,” Trump said.
The crowd chanted, “Build That Wall!”
Quintero, who was wearing a shirt with an anti-socialism message, said he felt Trump cared about Hispanics, particularly the cause against Cuba’s communist regime.
“And by the way, that whole myth that’s been created against Trump that he’s a racist, that’s a lie,” said Quintero.
Miami-Dade resident Ivette Dumois, 52, said she is a Cuban American whose family has always voted Republican.
“I think it’s just the values,” she said of why Hispanic voters are drawn to the GOP. “The Hispanic value has always been family, and I think that’s what Democrats are not at all dealing with.”
Trump called Hispanics “great people” and “entrepreneurial people” and welcomed them to the GOP.
“To every Hispanic American in Florida and across the land,” he said, “we welcome you to our party and our movement with open, open, open, beautiful arms.”
Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reporter Ana Ceballos contributed reporting.
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