Florida could be knockout punch for Sanders’ 2020 campaign

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Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to reporters about coronavirus Thursday March 12, 2020, in Burlington, Vt. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

MIAMI, Fla. – Florida has never been known as a place of stability, especially in its politics.

And yet stability is what has been on the minds of many Democrats in the state who say they'll vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in Tuesday's presidential primary election instead of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“I like some of Sanders' ideas, but he’s a little too extreme for me,” said Jeanne Hilburn, a 76-year-old retired teacher who lives in the suburbs of Tampa. “A lot of Democrats are like me — we want stability.”

As the race for the Democratic nomination enters a penultimate phase, with Sanders' campaign on the brink of collapse and Biden's ascendant, attention is turning to places like Florida, which is holding its primary on Tuesday along with Ohio, Illinois and Arizona. Florida has 219 delegates, the biggest prize of next week's election.

Few places hold the electoral cachet of Florida, which has been among the most coveted swing states in the last three decades, including during the contentious, chaotic recount of 2000. It is a vital state for President Donald Trump, who would have almost no path to reelection without it.

Biden's advisers are banking on a decisive Florida victory that sends a clear message that he is much better positioned to win the state and deny Trump a second term.

In 2016, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton here by 1.2 percentage points.

“Florida, as always, is pivotal in the outcome,” said Nikki Fried, who is the state's agriculture commissioner and top elected Democrat and who endorsed Biden. “We are the ultimate swing state.”