Trump targets politically diverse Orlando area for re-election kickoff Tuesday

Some 2,000 "Make America Great Again" supporters rally in Huntington Beach, Calif., in 2017. Trump plans to kick off his 2020 campaign in Orlando on Tuesday. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

ORLANDO, Fla., June 17 (UPI) — President Donald Trump will kick off his 2020 re-election campaign Tuesday night in downtown Orlando, Fla., an acknowledgement of how important his team feels the Sunshine State will be in his bid to return to the While House for four more years.

While Orlando and the Orange County area around it are Democratic strongholds, other nearby counties have been reliably red in recent elections. Orlando also is ground zero for Hispanic voters from Puerto Rico, who arrived after Hurricane Maria, and they tend to vote Democratic.

Overall, the Orlando area is the linch pin of the Interstate 4 corridor that stretches from Tampa to Daytona Beach, which is the most politically diverse area of the state. Factoring in heavily Democratic leanings in much of South Florida and strong Republican sentiment in the Panhandle and many rural areas, Florida is seen as a true battleground state.

The re-election rally is planned for 8 p.m. at the 20,000-seat Amway Center. First lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, are expected to attend.

“We want to make sure that Hispanics are there in numbers, and that he’s going to be our nominee,” J.J. Rodriguez, Hispanic outreach chairman for Orange County Republicans, said of Trump.

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“I think Florida objectively is the most important state when it comes to presidential elections,” said Aubrey Jewett, associate professor of political science at University of Central Florida in Orlando.

“It is the largest swing state with 29 electoral votes. That’s 10 percent of what you need to win the White House. Florida voted for the winner the last six times, and it’s been three Republicans, and three Democrats,” Jewett said.

He noted that historically, Ohio has been a similar big swing state, but the margin of victory in Ohio has been larger — around 5 percent in recent elections — while Florida’s national elections have typically been decided by 1 or 2 percent.

An appeal to turn out Hispanic voters is not surprising, said Brad Coker, with Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy in Jacksonville.

“The Hispanic vote divides pretty sharply,” Coker said. “Cuban-Americans in general are staying with Trump while non Cuban-American Hispanics are trending more Democratic. Immigration makes it a little more difficult, but Trump’s stand on immigration didn’t bite back hard enough to cost him Florida in 2016.”

Coker noted that Florida heat and potential for thunderstorms made an indoor rally a necessity in late June, and the Amway Center is among the larger indoor venues in along the I-4 corridor.

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