With another Florida loss, Democrats begin second guessing

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

In this Nov. 3, 2020, photo, Rafael Fagundo rings a bell as he and other supporters of President Donald Trump chant and wave flags outside the Versailles Cuban restaurant during a celebration on election night in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. As election postmortems go, the one that began in Florida Wednesday was especially wrenching for Democrats. While they could share in the possibility of a Biden victory, as other battleground states continue to tally votes, the soul searching and second-guessing has begun amid another high-profile loss at the ballot box. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Perhaps only in Florida is a loss by fewer than 4 percentage points considered a public drubbing.

In a state famous for razor-thin margins, the size of former Vice President Joe Biden's loss to President Donald Trump was humiliating for Democrats and sent many searching for answers to how they failed to close the deal with voters — again.

Democrats zeroed in on two clear explanations: Biden didn't connect with the state's Latino voters, performing particularly poorly with Cuban voters in South Florida. They also second-guessed the party's decision to freeze in-person organizing during the worst of the pandemic, a decision that set them back in reaching voters.

“Clearly, Biden was not able to capture the imagination of the Florida electorate and create the type of enthusiasm to go out and vote for Biden like Trump did with his base of supporters in the state," said Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based Democratic pollster. “It’s an unacceptable record of futility. What makes it so vexing is that the problems that need to be fixed are so apparent. But they just don’t get fixed."

Amandi focused on the Biden campaign's struggles to connect with Hispanic voters in the state.

Trump and Republicans pummeled Biden for months with misleading claims suggesting he was a “socialist” and would cater to the left wing of the Democratic Party. The attacks carried added power with Cuban and Venezuelan Americans, who associate the labels with authoritarian and corrupt Latin American leaders.

Biden's weakness was most evident in his underperformance in Miami-Dade County, which has the state’s deepest concentration of Hispanic voters, particularly Cuban Americans. Biden won the county, the state’s most populous, by just 7 percentage points — compared with Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 30-point victory margin four years ago against Trump.

AP VoteCast, a survey of the Florida electorate, found Trump won 58% of Cuban American voters statewide, while voters with South American heritage split evenly between Biden and Trump. The survey said Puerto Rican voters backed Biden by about 2 to 1.