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In Florida, these key voting blocs will have a significant impact

Early voting began in Florida this week. The state is perennially a battleground -- and its voter turnout could make all the difference. President Trump and Joe Biden are spending a combined $120 million on ads in the state and visiting multiple times as Election Day approaches. Yamiche Alcindor reports from South Florida with a look at key voting blocs and what issues are on residents’ minds.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Early voting kicked off in Florida this week, and President Trump is set to cast his vote in his adopted home state tomorrow.

    In this perennial swing state, turnout makes all the difference.

    Yamiche Alcindor has been in South Florida, taking a look at key voting blocs and what issues are top of mind.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Florida, often won by razor-thin margins, is back in the political spotlight. With less than two weeks until voting ends, organizers here are hitting the streets to rally the vote.

    There's leafletting, to door-knocking, and all-out flag-waving. The Sunshine State is home to a diverse set of nearly 22 million voters, and high turnout is what could secure the election for either party.

    Republicans and Democrats are laser-focused on a few key groups, Black voters, seniors and Latinos. Both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are barnstorming the state with multiple events in the final weeks of the race.

  • Narrator:

    President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    They're spending, combined, more than $120 million ads. That's more than any other state.

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    The Hispanic community, the Latino community holds in their palm of the hand the destiny of this country.

  • Fernand Amandi:

    If I could just sum it up in three words, it would be this: managing the margins.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Fernand Amandi is a Democratic pollster based in Miami.

  • Fernand Amandi:

    Hillary Clinton did a historically good job in South Florida, which is the base of the Democratic constituency in the state.

    But she was then overrun because her campaign didn't anticipate the managing of the margins in the northern part of the state, where white voters came out in unprecedented and historic numbers for Trump. That was the difference of the race right there. I think we're going to see the same dynamic potentially in play now in 2020.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Presidential candidates have long had their eyes set on Florida. It has a huge number of Electoral College votes, 29, in fact. But messaging to this state's diverse voters can be challenging.

    Joe Biden is counting on Black voters, and in poll after poll, the group overwhelmingly supports him. But there is a gender gap. In the last presidential election, Black women came out in consistently strong numbers for the Democratic Party.

    But turnout among Black men in Florida was six points lower. In a close race, Biden needs to convince Black men in particular to hit the polls in full force.

  • Lambert Rowe:

    I'm voting for Joe Biden, but, yes, I'm not really the most enthusiastic. I like him, but he's not — he wasn't my first choice.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Lambert Rowe is 28 years old and a reluctant Biden supporter. Since the pandemic, Lambert and other members of the South Florida community started a group called Breaking the Cycle.

    It meets throughout the week in Miami to ride bikes for various causes, including riding to the polls.

    What are the things that you think that make you kind of not as enthusiastic about Joe Biden?

  • Lambert Rowe:

    I'm scared because, in the past, Joe Biden helped with prison reform, and it didn't help the Black neighborhood at all. A lot of Black fathers are in jail, even Black mothers.

    I'm hoping Joe Biden has changed. Like, we're scared of the police, but the police are probably scared of us at the same time. So, what common ground can we get for both sides?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But despite his concerns about Biden, voting for Trump is not an option for him.

  • Lambert Rowe:

    Biden gives me a sense of comfort before Trump, because Trump, the things he say or do doesn't make me feel safe at all.

  • Gary Sisler:

    We just don't have enough law and order.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Gary Sisler, an 86-year-old Republican, disagrees. He lives at East Ridge retirement community in South Florida. We first met Gary, a Trump supporter, back in 2018.

    He is part of another important demographic, senior citizens. They make up 21 percent of Florida's population and often vote Republican. For Gary, the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality have caused tension in his family.

  • Gary Sisler:

    I have found, personally, if I said I really like to say all lives matter, instead of Black Lives Matter, explosion. That stopped communication in my family. That's tough. That's very tough.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Top of mind for Gary is President Trump's response to the protests.

  • Gary Sisler:

    Look at Portland, Oregon, over 100 nights, still demonstrating and rioting, just a couple of nights. They took off on the statues of Teddy Roosevelt. So that's a problem of law and order.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And what do you make of the fact that Portland, while it's had its struggles, is part of a movement that has been mostly peaceful?

  • Gary Sisler:

    Well, you say some pockets of violence. Portland, I don't think you could call pockets of violence. So, This is a terrible after-effect of the thing.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    While Gary is driven in part by a fear of protests, fellow Trump supporter Daily Salinas says it's the threat of communism that scares her.

  • Daily Salinas:

    My biggest fear is, they talk about the Democratic Party. They talk about socialism, socialism and communism going in the same way.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    She fled Cuba for the United States when she was 21 years old. As a Cuban American, she is part of another constituency that's long supported Republicans.

  • Daily Salinas:

    The reason why we came here, I remember, I was little, and I say I need to live. It's too much oppression and the dictator. So I don't want this for my kids. I want my kids keep their freedom.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Joe Biden is not a socialist and has long supported capitalism. But she worries he will be influenced by socialists on the left.

    While Cuban Americans make up 30 percent of the state's registered Latino voters, a growing number of Puerto Ricans in Florida could shake things up.

    Judy Ann Santiago is a hairdresser in South Florida. Judy Ann's family was impacted by Hurricane Maria in 2017. She recalled the moment President Trump came to the island and threw paper towels into a crowd of hurricane survivors.

  • Judy Ann Santiago:

    It really was an insult. Still, when you talk to people, they still have that in mind. And that's why Puerto Ricans really are very upset with our President Trump.

    So, I think that's why Joe Biden has to win their trust again and ensure that he really cares and he would do everything differently.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But that isn't all that's driving her to vote for Biden. The top issue for her in this election is the pandemic.

  • Judy Ann Santiago:

    I have a lot of friends and family that had and have the pandemic, the coronavirus virus. And it is very sad, because our president said to not worry. I have another friend that was 57 days in coma and still having some issues.

    So, yes, it's something that, when I vote, I'm going to have it in mind, and I'm going to vote according to that. And I will vote for our Vice President Biden.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Judy Ann's friends are just some of the seven million-plus Americans infected with the virus, which is spiking across the country.

    And her issues, along with the concerns of Lambert, Gary and Daily, are mirrored in voters across the country, making Florida, which has backed the winning candidate in every election since 1996, a key bellwether state.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

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