MIAMI — The Biden campaign is hoping Republican commentator Ana Navarro, a Trump foe known for her salty quips, can help drive Latino and other voters to the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Navarro was born in Nicaragua and came to the United States after the 1979 Sandinista revolution "when my family fled communism and we settled in Miami."
"I became a Republican at the age of 8 because it was a party that was fighting communism ... that did not kowtow to communist dictators,” she said.
She called this an “essential” part of being Republican.
That's one of the biggest messaging points the Trump campaign has been pushing to solidify and energize GOP Latino voters in the critical swing state of Florida — calling Biden and other Democrats communists, socialists and communist sympathizers.
But by collecting the support of Navarro and others like her, the Biden campaign is not only trying to puncture that thinking, but get others to galvanize never-Trump voters.
Living in Miami, Navarro said she has been represented by Republicans like former Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, former Gov. Jeb Bush and former Sen. Mel Martínez. She called them “people who understood and prioritized the interests of the community, who were not afraid of bucking the party and standing up for their community.”
Navarro said she voted for a Democrat for the first time in 2016, when she cast her ballot for Hillary Clinton, not Trump.
“It still hurts my heart every time I think of him coming down the escalators and calling Mexicans rapists and criminals,” she said, referring to when Trump launchd his presidential campaign in June 2015.
Trump won Florida in 2016 by 1 percent, but recent polls show Biden holding a slight lead in the state.
Navarro joined the campaign in a Latino-focused virtual event aimed at ramping up voter enthusiasm in the midst of a pandemic that has shut down campaign rallies and other events that bring large groups of people together.
The online event touched upon an array of topics, including COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on Latinos, health care and Temporary Protected Status, or deferrals from deportation and permission to work given to immigrants from countries experiencing natural or political turmoil.
Florida is a pivotal battleground state and one that is seen as a "must-win" for Trump's re-election.
Latinos make up 20.5 percent of eligible voters in Florida, according to the Pew Research Center, and both campaigns are vying for their vote.
“With Florida on our side, there is little to no chance that Trump will be re-elected,” said Biden senior adviser Cristóbal Alex, who hosted the event.
Democrats are banking on disenchantment with Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic to help Biden and other candidates prevail, as well as the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on Latinos, both in terms of infection rates and the economy.
The Palm Beach Post recently reported that although COVID-19 kills predominantly white, older Floridians, two thirds of people under 60 who are dying from COVID-19 are black and Latino, according to its analysis of state medical examiner records.
Democratic Rep. Darren Soto, the first Puerto Rican to be elected to Congress in Florida, said the most important issue of the election is COVID-19, “a pandemic that is plaguing our community and the nation and the resulting economic crisis.”
Hispanics have been infected with COVID-19 at disproportionate rates, and Soto said the U.S. needs a federal response like those of other industrialized nations that have fared better.
Soto, whose district is nearly a quarter Puerto Rican, also talked about making sure relief from Hurricane Maria arrives on the island, which is still recovering from the 2017 storm. He also addressed a need for rising wages and affordable housing.
Democrats are working to generate votes in all of Florida's Puerto Rican communities.
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represents a diverse district in South Florida and is the first Ecuadorian member of Congress, criticized Trump for his silence on the arrest of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on witness tampering charges.
She drew comparisons between the governing styles of Trump and Uribe, who is considered a caudillo, or strongman.
“There are steps Trump has taken that make him more of a caudillo than a democratic president. He has been using the pain of Venezuelans and Cubans for political points,” Mucarsel-Powell said.
She criticized Trump for cutting back on aid to Central America and said that has led to an increase in violence in the region. She said Biden understands Latin America and Latin American politics.
She shared her experience coming from Ecuador as a young girl and working at a doughnut shop growing up.
Mucarsel-Powell is up for re-election against the Republican mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez. The race has been rated a toss up by the Cook Political Report.