Florida has always been a critical swing state during election years. This year is no exception, as voters are more energized than ever with so much at stake. Both President Trump and Vice President Biden have been campaigning heavily in Florida because they know the importance our state holds on the road to the White House.
The strategy for each campaign appears to be one of playing to the margins. For President Trump’s campaign team, the goal is to “lose by less” in traditionally Democratic strongholds such as Miami-Dade County, while driving up voter turnout in the panhandle and securing the same counties which helped win Trump the presidency in 2016. Vice President Biden is working hard to increase turnout and win over suburban voters who may have voted for President Trump in 2016. He also stated that he plans to “work like the devil to secure every Latino and Hispanic vote,” which are key voting blocs to win in Florida as well.
An issue that resonates with Florida voters and both candidates should take into consideration is the negative impact that tariffs have had on Florida’s economy. Florida taxpayers have paid over $1.5 billion in tariffs since the trade war with China began. Unfortunately for President Trump, many of these tariffs have been paid for by the same blue-collar farmers and manufacturers that he is hoping to carry him to victory on November 3rd – which means that the Florida Trump Victory team’s margin strategy could prove to be difficult.
Over the past year, voters have realized that President Trump’s tariffs are an additional tax on the American people. Long before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the trade war caused thousands of American businesses and manufacturers to close their doors. In June of last year, thirteen South Florida companies, including retail giant Perry Ellis international, were among the 600 companies that sent a letter to President Trump highlighting the negative impact that tariffs have had on their industries.
In the letter, American manufacturers, businesses, and farmers agreed that the Trump Administration’s 25 percent tariffs on Chinese imports could result in the loss of two million American jobs, and add approximately $2,000 in annual costs of living for the average family of four. Given that President Trump is trailing in national polls, and is overwhelmingly behind in many of the key battleground states that he won in 2016, it is critical that the President uses every tool he can to close the gap with Vice President Joe Biden.
Unfortunately, right now it does not appear that either candidate is committed to eliminating tariffs. President Trump continues to hold steadfast in his support for the trade war, championing the Phase One Trade Deal on the campaign trail as a victory, while hinting that there may be more concessions from China in the near future. Vice President Biden had pledged early on to repeal tariffs and end the trade war but has since walked back his comments in hopes of using tariffs as a negotiating tool, much like President Trump’s strategy.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, tariffs remain a major issue for Florida’s voters. Should either candidate pledge to repeal them, they are likely to secure the vote of Floridians who are hurting from the trade war. The “lose by less” strategy is only effective so long as voters are motivated to turn out. With the trade war ongoing and neither candidate speaking out against it, a pledge to repeal tariffs could help drive the votes needed to secure the White House.
Trump currently has a small lead over Biden in Florida, but that small lead could turn into a rout for Team Trump is his support from Hispanics continues grow.