Though Cubans have dominated the Hispanic vote in the state for decades, they now only narrowly outnumber non-Cuban Hispanics, 51 percent to 49 percent. That makes Puerto Ricans and Central and South Americans an attractive target for Democrats, who can more easily make inroads among those Democratic-leaning voters than among more conservative Cubans.
But winning over non-Cuban Hispanics requires the sort of time and money that the Biden campaign has only recently started to invest.
“It’s just typical: Taking communities for granted and thinking they’re going to deliver 30 days out from an election,” scoffed Ana Carbonell, a Republican and a senior adviser to Mr. Scott’s Senate campaign who specialized in outreach to Hispanics.
Perhaps more telling, some Latino voters are more comfortable with Mr. Trump than in 2016, when he trounced and belittled the local sons Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio. And they are increasingly uncomfortable witnessing violence in American cities.
“There were a lot of people on the Hispanic side that said, ‘I don’t want to deal with him’ in 2016,” Ms. Carbonell said of Mr. Trump. “Now we have accepted this is who he is and they’re doing a little bit better financially and they had thought, ‘Well, Cubans have always been exaggerating’ — but now they’re seeing these anarchists on the streets and thinking, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’”
Before the pandemic, Florida Democrats had sought to avoid the mistakes of the past by lavishing attention on the Hispanic community, engaging the local news media, attending community events and running candidates in local and state legislative races that could bring more Hispanic voters to the polls. But unable to start voter registration campaigns, they have ceded ground to Republicans, who have shown far less restraint about in-person organizing.
Christian Ulvert, a Miami-based adviser for Mr. Biden, said it was only in the past few weeks that South Florida had demonstrated “levels of baseline acceptability’’ for resuming in-person campaigning.