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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/14/20

Georgia Voters and the Democrats' Political Strategy

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Message Steven Rosenfeld

From LA Progressive

2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map
2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map
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One day after Florida election officials announced that President Trump and Republican candidates had so badly beaten Democrats up and down the ballot that pundits were asking if Florida had become an irreversible red state, Joe Biden's Florida campaign held a statewide conference call.

"There was a Florida campaign call today that said Florida allowed us [Biden] to win the Midwest," said Ion Sancho, a retired longtime Florida Democratic county official, who cringed at the explanation. "It felt like a setup."

"Biden didn't go all-in -- in South Florida," said Sancho, who ran elections in the state's capital county for nearly three decades. "It was a feint to draw Trump's eyes off of the real prize, which was the three rust-belt states. He never planned to do it [win Florida] from day one. The Midwest was the prize all along."

Biden's feint was helped by ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who in mid-September announced that he would spend $100 million for late-breaking media and voter-contact efforts in Florida. The feint led Trump, whose campaign was cash-poor, to concentrate its spending and rallies in Pennsylvania and Florida, especially in South Florida's metro areas where a vast electorate including diverse Latino voting blocs lived.

"This was a battle we lost, but it helped win the war -- a war this country could not afford to lose," Davis said.

Nobody likes to hear their hard work campaigning was not a priority. But Sancho's observations underscore what Democrats must do to win in big and complex states like Florida. His experience also contrasts with neighboring Georgia, where he has seen Democrats and voting rights activists steadily organize voters for years, and where Biden narrowly beat Trump (in a vote that will be recounted) and where two U.S. Senate runoffs will decide control of that body and much of Biden's agenda.

"In Georgia, the community of color groups have been active," said Andrea Miller, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Common Ground, whose volunteers sent 873,000 postcards to non-white Georgia voters, followed up by 316,000 texts and 228,000 phone calls. "Black Voters Matter was going in its direction. I was going in mine. Stacey Abrams [as well as her group, Fair Fight,] was there in Atlanta, and I was out in the rural Black Belt."

Permanently Red Florida?

While many pundits have placed Florida in the red state column, there were some highlights suggesting, as was the case in Texas (where Biden was briefly leading on election night), that Florida's Democrats are not permanently exiled.

The state adopted a $15-an-hour minimum wage, a union-backed campaign. Miami-Dade County elected its first female mayor, Democrat Daniella Levine Cava. In 2018, voters re-enfranchised more than a million ex-felons, which Republican legislators subverted before 2020's election.

But the observations by Sancho, the longtime supervisor of elections in Leon County, where Florida's capital Tallahassee is located, underscored that the task of turning a demographically purple state blue cannot rely on top-down or last-minute campaigning, but takes ongoing organizing that meets voters where they are.

In every election, there are always voting blocs that become the fulcrum even in states with millions of voters. In 2020 in Florida, the various Latino communities, led by refugees from Cuba and South America, were targeted early on by Trump's campaign.

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Steven Rosenfeld has been a political reporter since the 1980s. He worked for Vermont newspapers for a half-dozen years before he took a break and was press secretary on the 1990 US House campaign that first elected Bernie Sanders to Congress. (more...)

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