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Why Mike Bloomberg plans to spend $100 million boosting Biden in Florida

The onetime Democratic presidential candidate hopes to shore up Biden’s Florida numbers.

Bloomberg in a navy suit and light blue shirt, his collar open, smiles as he stands amid a crowd of reporters.
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg in Florida on Super Tuesday in March 2020.
Eva Marie Uzcátegui/AFP/Getty Images

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced his intent to pour $100 million into Florida in support of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Bloomberg, a onetime Democratic presidential candidate, is the world’s 19th-richest person according to Forbes, with a fortune of almost $55 billion. He previously spent more than $1 billion on his nomination bid earlier this year before dropping out and endorsing Biden. While in that race, he pledged to spend heavily from his personal fortune to support the eventual Democratic nominee.

According to the Washington Post, Bloomberg’s Florida efforts will prioritize spending on television and digital ads in both English and Spanish.

That could be a major boon to the Biden campaign. Though FiveThirtyEight’s polling average shows a slight Biden edge — about 2.6 points — in Florida, the Cook Political Report has deemed the presidential race there a toss-up — and Republicans won statewide elections there in 2016 and 2018.

Florida has a unique significance in modern presidential elections. No candidate in the last 50 years, except for Bill Clinton in 1992, has won the White House without it — and given tight races in other swing states, it’s widely seen as a must-win for Trump this November if he’s to have any shot at a second term.

The Trump team is certainly spending like they believe that’s the case. According to the ad tracking site AdAge, Trump has committed $37.8 million to television ads in Florida, beating out the Biden campaign by a bit more than $20 million.

And Trump’s top three media markets by television spending are all in Florida: He’s pouring millions into the Tampa, Miami, and Orlando areas.

Trump derided Bloomberg’s plan on Twitter shortly after it was announced, inflating the amount the former mayor spent on his unsuccessful presidential campaign.

“I thought Mini Mike was through with Democrat politics after spending almost 2 Billion Dollars, and then giving the worst and most inept Debate Performance in the history of Presidential Politics,” Trump tweeted.

The Biden campaign has reason to be worried about Florida

Most recent polls show Biden with a slim edge over Trump in Florida. But the former vice president’s margin in the state has crept downward since last month, falling by 2.8 percentage points compared to his lead in mid-August.

Some of that decline could be driven by his apparent weakness with Latino voters in Florida. A recent NBC News/Marist poll shows Biden trailing Trump by about 4 percent with that demographic — bad news in a state that’s more than a quarter Latino, especially when you compare Biden’s numbers to 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s performance in the state. (According to exit polls from 2016, Clinton claimed 62 percent of the Latino vote in Florida to Trump’s 35 percent.)

Last week, former Bernie Sanders campaign adviser Chuck Rocha explained Biden’s problem with Latino voters to Vox’s Nicole Narea as one of timing and messaging:

Up until August 1, Donald Trump had spent three times as much money on Spanish-language communication as Joe Biden. Joe Biden has caught up with that spending and it’s equal now, but he’s done it all in the last two weeks. He’s made huge buys. That tells me they’re not doing as well as they can. Donald Trump got ahead of him, defined who he was, and they had to really ramp up their Spanish-language spending, outspending Donald Trump by 10 to one in the last two weeks trying to catch up.

“Some of this ‘law and order’ stuff, about having safe streets for your kids and your family, works with Latino men,” Rocha added. “Not a majority of them. Not even 30 percent. But [Trump] only needs to skim off 4 or 5 percent of Latino men, and it changes the entire electorate.”

On Sunday, top Biden campaign adviser Symone Sanders acknowledged that vulnerability in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, but emphasized that Biden and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris — who was in the state just last week — were committed to “doing the work” to shore up their numbers in Florida.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted a negative assessment of his rival’s chances in the state, touting his endorsement from Bay of Pigs veterans, as well as his ties to Cuban Americans in Miami.

The president’s taunts aside, a recent appeals court decision in Florida could make things harder for the Biden campaign. Last week, a judge upheld a Florida law mandating that people previously convicted of felonies must pay off all fines and fees before they can register to vote, a decision which could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of would-be voters.

The law, passed after Florida voters approved Amendment 4 during the 2018 midterms to restore voting rights to people convicted of a felony who had served their sentence, has been compared to a poll tax.

The exact effect that decision will have is still unclear, but it’s likely to favor Trump: As the New York Times pointed out on Friday, “any effort to limit ballot access could play a role in November, particularly if it affects a mostly low-income and disadvantaged population likely to lean more toward Democrats.”

Voters in Florida are set to get a close look at both candidates next month before they go to the polls: The second presidential debate, on October 15, will take place in Miami, Florida.