‘If you vote, he can’t win.’ Excitement, angst greet Joe Biden in Broward County

David Smiley, Alex Daugherty, Samantha J. Gross
·7 min read

In Florida’s Democratic stronghold of Broward County, Joe Biden painted a picture for voters of what he thinks a Donald Trump victory will do for America — and it wasn’t pretty.

Increasing COVID deaths. No more Obamacare. Tax cuts for the wealthy while working class people bear the burden.

And in comments aimed at South Florida Latinos, Biden attacked Trump’s Cuba and Venezuela policies as ill-suited for promoting democracy and stability in Latin America.

“He knows if you vote, he can’t win,” Biden said of Trump. “He knows when America votes, they reject people like him. We choose hope over fear. We choose unity over division, and we choose science over fiction. And, yes, we choose truth over lies.”

Biden spoke at the drive-in rally for about 20 minutes from a stage erected in a parking lot at Broward College’s north campus in Coconut Creek overlooking dozens of cars adorned with Biden-Harris flags, yard signs and, in one case, a giant plastic pumpkin.

He also made a quick stop after the rally at a makeshift campaign office on Sistrunk Boulevard in the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s Black community as Democrats continue their push to increase Black voter turnout in the final days of early voting.

“Florida can decide this right out of the box,” Biden, who was joined by the Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem, told a small group of campaign volunteers and supporters through a megaphone. “If we win Florida, it’s game time, man. It’s over.”

Biden’s rally in Broward County — his second this month — was the first of two on Thursday. After speaking in Broward, Biden headed for Tampa, where he planned to hold another rally just a few hours after Trump held his own gathering at Raymond James Stadium, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play football.

As Biden warned voters about the dangers of a second Trump term in Broward County, across the state Trump boasted that he’s in prime position to win Florida’s 29 electoral votes as polls show a tight race that slightly favors Biden.

“Biden betrayed Hispanic Americans for 47 years,” Trump said. “What is happening with those poll numbers? We are now beating Democrats for the first time ever with Hispanic Americans. I’ve always loved them and they’ve always loved me.”

Trump isn’t winning the Hispanic vote in Florida but is beating Biden among Cuban-Americans, who are concentrated in South Florida.

The dueling visits reflect the importance of the Tampa market, which along with Orlando make up a crucial section in Central Florida where the campaigns have spent tens of millions on TV and focused an inordinate amount of attention.

But Biden’s visit to deep blue Broward was also key to his chances of securing Florida, which Trump must win to be reelected. The Biden campaign rally came as Democrats attempt to beat back a red wave of early voting Republicans. At the start of early voting on Oct. 19, Democrats had cast nearly 500,000 more ballots than Republicans. By Thursday morning, that Democratic advantage was down to 206,000 ballots.

At Broward College, Biden said Amy Coney Barrett’s successful Supreme Court nomination weeks before the court is scheduled to hear a case that could overturn Obamacare raises the stakes for Florida, home to the largest number of Obamacare enrollees in the country.

“Trump got his Supreme Court justice,” Biden said. “If they get their way, 100 million Americans will lose protections for preexisting conditions, including more than 8.4 million here in Florida. Complications from COVID-19 will become the next preexisting conditions, allowing insurers to jack up your premiums or deny you coverage.”

Biden also made direct appeals to Cubans and Venezuelans, many of whom live in South Florida after fleeing their countries.

“We have to vote for a new Cuba policy as well,” Biden said. “Trump is the worst possible standard-bearer for democracy in places like Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea. Cuba is no closer to freedom and democracy today than it was four years ago. Trump loves to talk tough, but he doesn’t care about the Cuban and Venezuelan people. He won’t even grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans fleeing the oppressive Maduro regime. I will, but we have to vote.”

Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, is a program that would allow Venezuelan nationals in the U.S. to legally live and work for a period of time without the fear of deportation. While TPS has broad support from Democrats and Republicans in South Florida, conservative Republicans who balk at allowing additional immigration are opposed to the program.

The invite-only crowd of volunteers and activists that drove to see Biden was largely enthusiastic about his chances of winning, though some worry a close election could come down to lawsuits and legal challenges.

Hanging out the sunroof of a maroon Buick Riviera, Millie Conde-Pressler, 63, said she voted Friday by dropping a mail ballot into a drop box in Coconut Creek. She said she’s “concerned” that underhanded elections tactics will steal his victory.

“I think Florida has a great mail-in system and a great voting system, but I’m concerned there might be some shenanigans next week after the election if it’s tight,” said Conde-Pressler, a registered Democrat born to Puerto Rican parents in New York. “I’m hoping for a wider margin so we don’t have to be concerned about somebody contesting the outcome.”

Barbara Williamson, a retired teacher from Fort Lauderdale who attended Thursday’s rally with her son’s girlfriend, said while waiting for Biden to arrive that she’s “nervous” about the election. “Don’t listen to the polls,” she said. “Get out and do your duty.”

For Biden, carrying a lead into Election Day is crucial. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton held a nearly 250,000-vote lead over Trump in early voting and mail ballots, only to wind up losing to him by more than 360,000 votes on Election Day. The pandemic has turned voting patterns on their head in Florida, but Trump voters are still likely to outnumber Biden voters on Nov. 3.

Broward County is critical to the Democrats’ effort. So far, the county’s Democratic voters are turning out at higher rates than the state average, leading to hopes that Florida’s most Democratic county could produce better numbers for Biden than it did for Hillary Clinton in 2016. That year, Broward had a 71.8% turnout rate and Clinton beat Trump in Broward County by 292,000 votes, but still lost Florida.

“When Broward County turns out in large numbers, Democrats win statewide,” Ted Deutch, a Democratic congressman whose district includes parts of northern and eastern Broward County, said after stepping out of a car and shedding his jacket in the heat. “Based on that enthusiasm we’ve seen around early voting, I feel really good about the direction things are headed.”

As of Thursday morning, 52.5% of Broward’s voters had voted. A large turnout of Broward’s mostly Democratic 310,000 Black voters through the final weekend of early voting could help lift Biden in South Florida and offset losses in Miami-Dade County, where polling and early voting turnout numbers suggest Trump will do materially better this year than he did in 2016.

Dale Holness, Broward County’s first Jamaican-American mayor, said he’s “excited” about the amount of time Biden has spent in Florida’s bluest county.

“The fact that the campaign is paying so much attention to Broward County — this is his second trip, Kamala Harris is coming [this weekend] — it shows the campaign is paying attention to Broward County,” said Holness. “We deliver a high turnout in Broward County, the Democrats will win the state of Florida and the presidency, there’s no doubt about it.”

Before heading to Tampa, Biden drove to the Sistrunk Boulevard office along with his late son Beau Biden’s eldest daughter, Haslem and former NBA athlete Matt Barnes to address a crowd of supporters.

“It feels good. And the turnout has been amazing,” Biden told the crowd. “I have no illusions about if I win, why. Not at all.”