Bloomberg's $100 Million Coming to Florida With Latino Voters as "Centerpiece"

The news that former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg was set to drop $100 million into the critical battleground state of Florida in the final 50 days, with a "focus" on Latino voters, set off a political earthquake in perhaps the most important state on the electoral map.

Now Florida Democrats familiar with the plans—which are still being finalized—say Latinos will be a "centerpiece" of the staggering late-stage investment.

The hallmark of Bloomberg efforts is that they are very data-driven, sources said. The overarching Florida plan has been described as having a digital and television focus, with the announcement Thursday that the first $5.4 million will go to Priorities USA, the top super PAC backing Joe Biden.

The first ads focus on President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus, a message which tested the best among those the Bloomberg team reviewed, McClatchy reported. But direct mail and field efforts on the ground are also being planned, Newsweek has learned.

"Overwhelming force," said James Aldrete, who worked on direct mail and Hispanic media strategy for Bloomberg's campaign during the primary, of what to expect from the Latino voter effort in Florida in the coming weeks. Aldrete, an Obama and Clinton campaign veteran, said that beyond a deep focus on data, he would expect the Bloomberg funds to be used to track and counter misinformation in the state.

Aldrede noted that Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, a fierce supporter of President Trump, is vulnerable because of his mishandling of the COVID-19 response.
"When you think messaging in terms of the pandemic that's been mismanaged," Aldrete said, "and you throw DeSantis in there too, there's real opportunity."

The full plans for the $100 million are still in flux, but Bloomberg's team is sifting through proposals, vetting organizations, and analyzing reams of data from stakeholders, who either want a piece of the investment to help fund the work they're already doing in Florida, or want to influence how the money is directed in the unwieldy state.

"We are looking at what will be most helpful supporting Vice President Biden in defeating Donald Trump in Florida, including television, radio, and digital ads as well as GOTV," a Bloomberg spokesperson told Newsweek. "Outreach to Hispanic and Black Americans in Florida will be a critical part of our program."

Bloomberg's seismic cash infusion comes as Biden's Latino support and level of outreach in Florida has been criticized, after polls showed him lagging behind Hillary Clinton's support in heavily-Cuban Miami-Dade County, and her statewide Hispanic support four years ago. The effort, which may have seemed like a luxury weeks ago, could grow in consequence after the ground-shifting death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with Trump's shortlist including Cuban-American judge Barbara Lagoa, which could energize Cuban voters.

Trump, in his trademark way, made clear her qualifications were at least partly political, when asked about Lagoa on Saturday by reporters.

"I've heard incredible things about her," Trump said before boarding Marine One. "I don't know her. She's Hispanic and highly respected. Miami. Highly respected."

While the Bloomberg initiative is expected to primarily be a get out the vote effort—as fall efforts in the final weeks usually are—Florida Democrats say there is room for persuading the small number of undecided voters, as well as convincing voters on the margins, who have soft support for Biden, to vote for him.

The direct mail portion of the campaign will partly consist of follow-ups with voters who asked for their ballot in the mail, one of the sources familiar with the Bloomberg effort said. Asked about whether the focus might be on Cuban-Americans and Venezuelans in Miami-Dade or Puerto Ricans in Orlando, the source echoed many of the others awed by what $100 million in such a short period of time really means.

"The beauty of the Bloomberg approach," the source told Newsweek, "is you don't have to necessarily pick, you can do both."

While Latino voters are not monolithic across the nation, the mix of ethnicities in Florida is unique, including some who have a fear of socialism, much of it based on direct personal experience of socialist regimes in other countries. The Trump campaign and his allies have exploited this fact to paint the decades-long centrist Biden as a socialist—or at least a weak candidate in the pocket of socialists.

Democrats in the state say the massive Bloomberg effort most reminds them of Rick Scott's last-minute financing of his races in 2014 and 2018 to the tune of millions of dollars in the final weeks.

In 2014, Scott defeated Charlie Crist in his reelection for governor, and in 2018, made repeated Latino outreach efforts, leading to the defeat of former senator Bill Nelson, whose campaign was marred by "atrophy" and "neglect" and "didn't maintain a real connection in the community," Aldrete said.

It was quickly forgotten at the time because he lost, but Bloomberg spent an unprecedented $30 million in a bilingual direct mail blitz to Latinos ahead of Super Tuesday, pouring money into Texas and California, while sparing no expense to hire paid canvassers in both states.

Bloomberg's historic spending did help move Latino voters at the time. Despite entering the race late, as Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders were crowding out other challengers, Bloomberg received 23.5 percent Latino support, edging Biden, in the 15 Texas counties that are more than 70 percent Hispanic, according to a UCLA Latino Politics and Policy Initiative analysis.

"It's sorely needed," said Jose Parra, a former senior aide to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has worked on Florida initiatives. "Investment is what we need in those communities, and at this point most have decided, so you have to invest in turning out that vote."

While Bloomberg aides said they will work with Latino Victory Fund in the state, they are still considering partnering with The Lincoln Project, and still fielding suggestions on which groups they should work with.

New Florida Majority, which is part of the largest independent expenditure in the state, like others jockeying behind the scenes, would like to be a recipient of Bloomberg's largesse. The investment is welcome, the group told Newsweek, because Spanish-language media is becoming prohibitively expensive in major media markets, especially in the I-4 corridor, home to many transplanted Puerto Ricans, where rates are "through the roof because everyone wants to reach Puerto Ricans."

The organization said Bloomberg would be smart to invest in tried and true field efforts that have thus far been largely eschewed by Biden due to the pandemic—the traditional outreach of door-knocking and clipboarding outside supermarkets—to exhaust all avenues of reaching voters who are missed through digital organizing.

"In a normal election year the Biden campaign would have 500 organizers across the state, and they're not doing that for reasons we understand," Andrea Mercado, the group's executive director, told Newsweek.

But groups on the ground also remind Bloomberg that he isn't the only game in town, and this late in the election, his investment must be laser-focused to avoid duplicating efforts and successfully accomplishing what they all want: a Trump defeat.

As part of the Florida for All coalition, New Florida Majority, along with groups like Dream Defenders, SEIU, Planned Parenthood Florida, and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, is the largest Black and brown-led program in the state in 19 counties.

"Due to recent polling numbers, a lot of political donors, including Bloomberg, want to address and solve for Biden's problem with Latino voters," Mercado said. "I would encourage them to invest in Latino-led efforts, as opposed to starting new infrastructure."

While some insiders see the Bloomberg $100 million investment as a luxury for the Biden campaign, which is freed to spend their money elsewhere, others see it as a necessity.

"If Biden were kicking ass with Latino voters I doubt they would have had a singularly focused effort only on Florida," a state Democrat told Newsweek. "This is directly in response to troubling signs of Biden not closing the deal with Hispanic voters in the state."

Puerto ricans cubans
Protesters wear (from L) Cuban, Puerto Rican and Costa Rican flags during a rally in response to the recent death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, in Orlando, Florida on June 6, 2020. (Photo by Ricardo ARDUENGO / AFP) (Photo by RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images) Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty
Bloomberg's $100 Million Coming to Florida With Latino Voters as "Centerpiece" | U.S.