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Biden targets military members, Latino voters in first Florida campaign visit

Biden held a roundtable with voters about military issues in Tampa and later held a Hispanic Heritage month event near Orlando.
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Joe Biden used his first visit of the year to Florida on Tuesday to hammer President Donald Trump over his reported criticism of fallen military members, saying at a roundtable discussion with servicemen and women that he is the better candidate on veterans' issues.

"Nowhere are his faults more glaring or offensive to me, at least, as when it comes to his denigration of our service members, veterans, wounded warriors, the fallen," Biden said in a speech in Tampa. "Quite frankly, it makes me very upset the way he gets in front of a camera and crows about how much he does for our vets and then calls them 'suckers' and 'losers,'" Biden added, referring to a story published in The Atlantic this month about Trump's reported remarks.

Biden's speech was followed by a roundtable discussion with voters about military issues — a lengthy discussion during which he touched on various policy issues like mental health services for veterans and protecting Social Security.

Biden's trip to Florida was his first to the critical battleground state this year. He last set foot in the state exactly one year ago, when he held an event in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami.

His stop in Tampa was one of two scheduled for the trip; later Tuesday, Biden delivered remarks at a Hispanic Heritage Month event near Orlando to appeal to Puerto Rican voters who were displaced by Hurricane Maria, who could be key to offsetting Trump's advantage among Cuban voters.

As many as 50,000 Puerto Ricans moved to the state after Hurricane Maria, according to the University of Florida. Many of them are eligible to vote in Florida, and Democrats could motivate them to vote for Biden because of Trump's widely criticized response to the hurricane. In another sign of its increased targeting of the Puerto Rican community in the Orlando area, the Biden campaign released a new plan Tuesday afternoon focused specifically on lifting up Puerto Rico.

At the event, which featured actress Eva Longoria and singer Ricky Martin as speakers, Biden discussed the importance of Latino voters.

"More than any other time, the Hispanic community, Latino community, holds in the palm of their hand the destiny of this country. You may not want to hear it, but it's true. It's true. You can decide the direction of this country," Biden said.

The Biden campaign in recent weeks has upped its attention to Florida, where polls show the candidates in a dead heat. Last week, Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., traveled to Miami, where she ripped the president over his remarks to journalist Bob Woodward about the Covid-19 pandemic. Her husband, Douglas Emhoff, who is Jewish, held a community conversation last week with rabbis 8 miles away in Aventura.

An NBC News/Marist survey released last week found the race in Florida tied overall, but with Biden underperforming among Latino voters. Seeking to counteract that, Latino voters across Florida are being reintroduced to Biden — and reminded of Trump — in different ways in different regions.

In ads, the Biden campaign is reminding Hispanic voters how Trump's handling of the pandemic and the economy has affected them, while Black voters are hearing stories from their own community about the need to turn out or risk four more years of no progress toward racial equality.

The Biden campaign has also targeted seniors in recent weeks with testimonial-style advertising featuring residents of The Villages, a Trump-leaning retirement community, discussing how the president's inability to control the virus has forced them to stay inside and away from their families.

Meanwhile, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's political operation has announced a commitment to spend $100 million in Florida, with a special focus on the Latino vote.