Florida to be close battleground on Election Day

“Everybody I talk to, whether they’re a Democrat or Republican or neither, is just very much looking forward to this election being over. Nobody is really enjoying the process.”

Trump tosses face masks to the crowd as he takes the stage in Florida for his first campaign rally since being treated for COVID-19. 12 October 2020 (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
Trump tosses face masks to the crowd as he takes the stage in Florida for his first campaign rally since being treated for COVID-19. 12 October 2020
(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Florida is always a close race in presidential elections. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, President Donald Trump is leading Democratic candidate Joe Biden by just four-tenths of a percentage point (0.4%) in the ultimate swing state, which allocates 29 electoral votes.
The FiveThirtyEight projection, on the other hand, sees Biden as slightly favored to carry Florida. Since 1972, the person who won Florida also ended up winning the presidency, except for 1992. The “US Elections Project” indicates that with six days until November 3, nearly seven million people already voted in Florida – 72% of 2016’s total turnout.
And while for Biden there are other paths to the 270 electoral votes needed to win, it’s a crucial state for Trump. That’s the reason why the president has visited the state multiple times over the past few weeks. On the Democratic side, Joe Biden made a few visits and also relies on former president Barack Obama, who held two rallies in Miami and Orlando in the past week, urging young voters to cast their ballot for the former vice president.
Florida is also the swing state with the most significant Jewish vote: Out of the Sunshine State’s 14 million voters, some 750,000 (5.4%) are Jewish.
Stephen Fiske is chairman of the US-Israel PAC and a Trump supporter. “I think the two states that matter are Pennsylvania and Florida. But Florida is a must win for Trump,” he said.
Recent polls gave Trump between 25% to 30% of the Jewish vote, but Fiske predicts that the president’s share of the Jewish vote in Florida will be higher. “I feel he will win that because he will probably get the most [Jewish] votes nationwide than any Republican [ever has]. It will probably be around 32%.
“Jews are such Democrats, it’s like a knee jerk reaction to vote Democrat,” he continued. “But with the Biden-Harris ticket, Harris is the most liberal of all 100 senators, and Biden [has] his record of the Iran deal and especially Resolution 2334 in December of 2016. He can say he’s for the Jews, for Israel – but he really isn’t.”
Fiske said that the message of Republicans in Florida to the Jewish community is that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris “will jump back into the Iran deal.”
“The rial has lost 60% of its value in 2020 alone, and around 80% since President Trump has been elected. They are on their knees,” he said. “And if Biden wins, they will receive an influx of cash and we are back to the same place we were when President Trump started. Everything will be reversed.”
ONE ADDITIONAL factor that could shape the race is COVID-19. Fiske said that as a Trump supporter, he feels that the president has done more than any world leader has done. “However, if he loses, I feel he loses because of coronavirus,” he said.
Fiske also addressed the polls’ ambiguity, saying that “the energy and excitement are unparalleled” – which makes him believe that Trump will win Florida. “When Trump comes to Florida, he is received by thousands of people at the airport. Joe, and even Obama, has done events – and maybe there are a couple dozen cars pulled up. The energy isn’t there.
“I personally do not believe the polls. The energy speaks for itself. When people come out and wait in the sun hours to listen to a president, they are voting. And I feel that the polls will be all off and Trump will win much larger than ever anticipated.”
Evan Ross is a Jewish campaign consultant and activist who supports Joe Biden. “Everybody I talk to, whether they’re a Democrat or Republican or neither, is just very much looking forward to this election being over. Nobody is really enjoying the process,” he said.
“Everybody is just tired of the ugliness of the campaigning, the stress of it, the constant barrage of news that is about nothing but the election. And people are just ready for it to be over,” he continued. Ross said he wishes he could turn on his TV without hearing anything about politics for an hour.
He noted that Florida is a state that comes down to very small margins in every election. “If you look at our history, nobody wins Florida by big numbers. Everybody who wins Florida wins it close.”
IN 2018, Governor Ron DeSantis was able to increase his share of the Jewish vote substantially, Ross said. “Typically, almost three-quarters of Jewish voters in Florida vote for Democrats. In 2016, Trump is believed to have gotten about 27% of the Jewish vote in Florida. Ron DeSantis got 35% of the Jewish vote, and that was about that eight percent difference with about 30,000 votes. That’s the margin that he won by.
“As a member of Congress, he had an unquestionably fantastic pro-Israel record. Nobody can dispute the fact that as a member of Congress, he had been tremendously supportive of Israel,” Ross said.
Like Fiske, Ross also predicted that Trump would get a larger share of the Jewish vote than he got in 2016, both nationally and in Florida. “I think there are a lot of Jewish voters who are very happy with his Israel policy. And because of it, they will ignore some of the things that they don’t like about him and cast a vote for him.
“So I expect that [instead of] the 27% he got in 2016, he’ll be more in the range of 30% this year. Is it enough that it changes the outcome? We’ll see. Florida is going to be close, so you take nothing for granted.”
He noted that he supports the president’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem and that the three recent normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries “are fantastic.”
“However, nothing could be worse for Israel and its relationship with the US – and its reliance on the US – than to have support for Israel become a partisan issue in the US. So Joe Biden has spent 47 years in public office and has a track record of being pro-Israel,” Ross said.
“He won’t use Israel as a political football. He won’t say, ‘I did something good for Israel, so you should only vote for Democrats if you care about Israel,’ where Trump does that consistently – not just with Israel, [but] with lots of issues. And what he does by propelling that message is he creates a divide. And that doesn’t benefit Israel – it hurts Israel.”
FANNY HANONO is a 59-year-old business owner who supports Trump. She was born in Miami to a Cuban-Jewish family. “My parents came here, they are first generation American, and my brother was born in Cuba,” she said. “My father became an American dream. He knows what it is to live in a communist country.”
“I think the Jewish community votes Democratic always. They are just blind in my eyes,” Hanono continued. “The Left has become extremely intolerant of even hearing another opinion – they don’t even want to hear it. And I think that that wasn’t in America before. You could be on two sides and agree to disagree. But that doesn’t happen anymore.”
“I love Trump’s policies, but I think he’s his own worst enemy,” she said. “I think the economy is improving; I think it’s going to get much better after the election, especially if Trump wins.”
Steve Geller is a Democrat and the incoming mayor of Broward County, Florida. “I expect that Florida will be decided by within one point either way. I’m hoping it will be Biden,” he said.
“I don’t think that either party right now is everything that the Jewish community would want because they’re big parties,” he added.
Geller said that the party supports Israel and that the US-Israel relationship should remain bipartisan. “One of the problems is the Republicans point to [representatives] Ilhan Omar or Rashida [Tlaib] or Alexandria Cortez, and they look at those three and say, ‘oh, well, those are the Democratic Party.’
“No, they’re not,” he said. “They’re a tiny minority of the Democratic Party. And if they were the Democratic Party, I wouldn’t be a Democrat. But they’re not: They’re a tiny part of the party that talk a lot and that the press gives way too much attention to because they have far less influence.”
“Trump has done his best to make Israel a partisan Republican issue,” Geller said. “That may help him in this election, but it’s not good for Israel. Israel needs to have support from Democrats and Republicans – and Trump trying to use Israel as a political tool to help his campaign, I think hurts Israel in the long run.”