Joe Biden on Tuesday used his first 2020 visit to the critical battleground state of Florida to hammer President Donald Trump over his reported criticism of fallen military members, telling a roundtable of servicemen and women that he is the better candidate on veterans’ issues.
“Nowhere are his faults more glaring or offensive to me, at least, as when it comes to his denigration of our service members, veterans, wounded warriors, the fallen,” Biden said during a speech in Tampa. “Quite frankly, it makes me very upset the way he gets in front of a camera and crows about how much he doe for our vets and then calls them ‘suckers’ and ‘losers,'” he added, nodding to a story published in The Atlantic earlier this month on Trump’s reported remarks.
Biden’s speech was followed by a roundtable with voters about military issues — a lengthy discussion that saw the Democratic presidential nominee touch on various policy issues like mental health services for veterans and protecting social security.
Biden’s trip to Florida was his first to the critical battleground this year. He last set foot in the state exactly one year ago, when he held an event in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami.
His stop in Tampa was one of two scheduled for the trip; later Tuesday, Biden delivered remarks at a Hispanic Heritage Month event near Orlando to appeal to Puerto Rican voters who were displaced by Hurricane Maria, which could be key to offsetting Trump’s advantage among Cuban voters.
As many as 50,000 Puerto Ricans moved to the state after Hurricane Maria, according to the University of Florida. Those transplants are eligible to vote in Florida, and Democrats could motivate them to vote for Biden because of Trump’s widely criticized response to the hurricane. In another sign of its increased targeting of the Puerto Rican community in the Orlando area, the Biden campaign on Tuesday afternoon released a new plan focused specifically on uplifting Puerto Rico.
At the event, which featured actress Eva Longoria and singer Ricky Martin as speakers, Biden discussed the importance of Latino voters in this election.
“More than any other time, the Hispanic community, Latino community holds the palm of their hand the destiny of this country. You may not want to hear it but it’s true. It’s true. You can decide the direction of this country,” Biden said.
The Biden campaign in recent weeks has upped its attention in Florida, where polls show the candidates in a dead heat. Last week, Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., traveled to Miami, where she ripped the president over his remarks to journalist Bob Woodward about the COVID-19 pandemic. Her husband Douglas Emhoff, who is Jewish, held a community conversation last week with rabbis eight miles away in Aventura.
An NBC News/Marist survey released last week found the race in Florida tied overall, but with Biden underperforming among Latino voters. Seeking to counteract that, Latino voters across Florida are being reintroduced to Biden — and reminded of Trump — in different ways in different regions.
In ads, the Biden campaign is reminding Hispanic voters how Trump’s handling of the pandemic and economy has affected them, while Black voters are hearing stories from their own community about the need to turn out or risk another four years of no progress toward racial equality.
The Biden campaign has also targeted seniors in recent weeks with testimonial-style advertising featuring residents of the Trump-leaning retirement community The Villages discussing how the president’s inability to control the virus has forced them to stay inside and away from their families.
Meanwhile, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political operation has announced a commitment to spend $100 million in Florida with a special focus on the Latino vote.
Dartunorro Clark contributed.